David Ferrer, I am sorry I ever called your rubber a throwaway. That is totally unfair to how much you wanted it, how hard you fought for it and how sweet it was when you took it out.
Spain have taken a 2-0 lead after the first day of play in the Davis Cup final, and you have to think that this is a pretty unassailable lead now. It started when Rafa crushed Tomas Berdych - I read a great line on the Davis Cup website which said that this match marked the return of Hurricane Rafa, back on his favourite surface, playing for his country. This wasn't Shmafa that turned up - oh no, Shmafa stayed well away. Shmafa is a good player, but there's no way he could take thirteen games in a row off a player like Berdych.
Berdych didn't look especially inspired, I have to say - he didn't really play that much tennis that was worthy of this level. He had his chance late in the first set, missed it, and that was the end of that, really. There was no way he could have stopped Rafa winning that match - probably no way he could have stopped him winning it in straights, either - but he could have played a bit better, I thought.
But nice as it was to see Rafa looking like himself again, the hero of the day has to be David Ferrer. Is there any man as comfortable in a five set situation as Ferru? The dude is a total machine, fitness wise. But you know what? one of the reasons I think we always see him in five set situations isn't to do with his fitness. We always see him in the fifth because he has mental fortitute like whoa.
Think about it. Stepanek was totally owning him in the first two sets. Like, serious ownage. Stepanek is, I would say, the more talented of the two players - he certainly has the most natural flair - and it showed. But then Ferrer just... didn't give up.
There's something about Davis Cup that fosters these epic clashes, and today was no exception. Five hours of tooth and nail fighting. I want to give Stepanek his dues - he played wonderfully in the first two sets, and it wasn't like he died totally in the last three - but the day belongs to David, for having sheer grit and nerve and refusing to give up in the face of what looked like certain defeat. He's almost terrier-like in his refusal to lay down and die - he reminds me a bit of Lleyton Hewitt in that way, actually. Kudos. Epic, epic kudos.
It looks like Berdych and Stepanek will be the ones taking the court tomorrow in the doubles - I suppose the Czechs will have to do everything they can to keep the tie alive. But I don't like their chances. A fresh Lopez and Verdasco up against a listless Berdych and an exhausted Stepanek? It'd be superhuman if they pulled it off.
Davis Cup Final
Spain 2, Czech Republic 0
Rafael Nadal def. Tomas Berdych, 7-5 6-0 6-2
David Ferrer def. Radek Stepanek, 1-6 2-6 6-4 6-4 8-6
3 weeks ago