Vancouver: Spain fought off Davis Cup elimination by winning the doubles competition against Canada 4-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 on the hard courts of the University of British Columbia campus. The top-ranked Spaniards trail hosts Canada 1-2 with two singles rubbers set for Sunday to decide what country advances to the quarter-finals in World Group (top-16 countries) play, reports Xinhua.
Entering Saturday 2-0 up, the Canadian doubles team, featuring 40-year-old veteran Daniel Nestor and 22-year-old Vasek Pospisil, got off to a strong start when they took the opening set 6-4 against the Spanish pairing of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
After Canada won the third set in a tie-breaker, five-time Davis Cup champions Spain, playing without their top four players including Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, roared back to take the next two sets and the match.
Granollers, who was beaten in straight sets in singles against Frank Dancevic Friday, said he felt fresh during the match and was up for playing Sunday if chosen by Spanish captain Alex Corretja.
"After that first set we played very good. It was a long match, five sets, it's not easy for my body but I think we finished the fifth set very fresh and finished the match very good," said Granollers, who regularly plays doubles with Lopez on the ATP circuit.
Nestor, No.4 in doubles, made numerous key shots to give the hosts the early momentum. He put Canada ahead 5-4 with a backhand that Granollers couldn't return and in the next game executed a forehand on the final point that blazed past the Spaniards.
Granollers and Lopez, who captured the ATP World Tour doubles title last year, dead-locked the match in the next set. After breaking serve in the third game, the Spaniards took advantage of the Canadians' 11 unforced errors to win 6-4.
The Canadians immediately answered Spain in the next set breaking serve in the third game to roll out to a 3-0 lead. With Canada 4-1 up, Spain reeled off the next three games, including breaking serve in the seventh game, to draw even. After the Spaniards took the opening point in the third-set tie-breaker, the Canadians took five straight points to win 7-4 and take the set.
With everything on the line for Spain, the Davis Cup runner-ups to Czech Republic last year, Granollers and Lopez easily won the fourth set 6-3.
The crucial moment in the deciding set came when Nestor double faulted with Canada 30-40 down as Spain broke serve to go 2-1 up. Lopez then served a love-game in the fourth game to put the visitors in a commanding position and then broke serve in the next to silence the crowd.
It was revealed after the match that Nestor was feeling ill from the fourth set. With Corretja putting his team through practice after the doubles rubber, Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said he had no idea who the visitors would field Sunday in the opening singles match against his top player, World No.15 Milos Raonic.
Pospisil added the Canadian team was still feeling confident. "We're still in a great position. Today, again, we gave ourselves the best chance of winning. We're not too far from closing the deal today. But we have two strong singles guys (Raonic and Dancevic) going for us tomorrow and the whole team's feeling really good and confident," said Pospisil, currently ranked No.131 in singles.
Despite getting new life with the doubles point, Corretja, who helped Spain to its first Davis Cup title in 2000 as a player, said he wasn't relieved. "I will feel relieved tomorrow night if we win 3-2. It's obviously nice to get the chance to play tomorrow. It would have been very bad for us not to reach Sunday but I'm not feeling relief right now. I feel happy for the players that they did a great effort and won. We were almost out and today we're still in it," he said.
The winner of Canada-Spain will face the victor of Croatia-Italy in the quarter-finals in April. Italy currently leads the tie 2-1.