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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, January 10, 2020

 
Nadal, CArreno Busta

After David Goffin upset Rafael Nadal, the world No. 1 partnered Pablo Carreno Busta to win a decisive doubles thriller sending Spain into the semifinals vs. Australia.

Photo credit: Paul R. Kane/Getty

Rafael Nadal responded to a grueling loss partnering Pablo Carreno Busta to propel Spain to a gritty ATP Cup triumph.

After Belgian No. 1 David Goffin smacked an ace sealing a stunnining 6-4, 7-6(3) upset of Nadal to level this tie, the world No. 1 made the most of his second shot at success in Sydney.

More: Djokovic Edges Shapovalov in Epic

Shrugging off his second singles loss since last July, Nadal and Carreno Busta battled by Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen 6-7(7), 7-5, 10-7 in the decisive doubles match sending Spain into the ATP Cup semifinals with a pulasting 2-1 comeback win over Belgium. 

"Tough because for us it was a big change from Perth to here and was not much time to adapt," Nadal told Jim Courier afterward. "The conditions today were very heavy, big humidity. Playing against a big player like David and then the doubles always become a difficult thing.

"They have been here 10 days. For us, it's the first day and just well done for them. They played a great tie, a great level of tennis. I tried my best in the singles. It was not possible. Then we were able to win a doubles as a team. We are super happy to be in the semifinals."



Reigning Davis Cup champion Spain won't have much time to celebrate as it plays for its second international team title in two months. Spain will return to action in Saturday night's semifinals where it will play Australia.

The winner of the Australia vs. Spain tie will face either Serbia or Russia in Sunday's inaugural ATP Cup final. Nadal knows it won't be easy to capture the Cup. 

"Probably we had the toughest situation possible in the whole ATP Cup because we were the last team to come from Perth," Nadal said. "That is three hours time change arriving so late. Today again finishing it's ten past one so normally not before four in the morning we will be sleeping.

"That's an issue, but here we are. We are excited to be here in Sydney. We are excited to be playing tomorrow a very tough one against Australia. But we are going to try our best as we did our whole careers."

Roberto Bautista Agut gave Spain a 1-0 lead cruising to a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over Kimmer Coppejans, a late substitution for Belgian player-captain Steve Darcis.

The 11th-ranked Goffin played with bold aggression mixing down-the-line drives brilliantly in disrupting Nadal. Exploiting a Nadal double fault, Goffin broke for at 15 for 3-2 only to see Nadal break back immediately. A defiant Goffin saved five break points in the eighth game before breaking for 5-4. Goffin served out the opener at 30.

"I have to take the ball early to use the power of Rafa to play fast and make him run a lot," Goffin said after beating Nadal for the first time since the 2017 ATP Finals in London..

The pair traded breaks during a tense 82-minute second set with Nadal seemingly snatching momentum until Goffin completely commanded the tie break clinching his second career win over Nadal in six meetings with his sixth ace.



"For me I was suffering a lot physically today," Nadal said. "I was sweating a lot and lost my energy."

Neither team established separation in a pressure-packed doubles match. 

Serving in the 11th game, Nadal was hit with a time violation that heightened tension. Carreno Busta showed fast hands at net helping Spain hold at 30 for a 6-5 lead.

Vliegen cut off the middle of the court with some fine angled volleys as Gille held to force the first-set tie break.

Gille slid a backhand return down the line off a Nadal second serve earning the first mini-break for 3-1. The right-handed Belgian double-faulted back the mini break as Spain closed the gap to 3-4, but Vliegen attacked Carreno Busta at net then Gille thumped a smash for 5-3.

Vliegen swept away a volley—withstanding Spain's video review of the call showing the Belgian did not cross the net—for 6-5. Nadal saved it on serve then Carreno Busta banged a high volley giving Spain a set point at 7-6.




Gille saved it and Vliegen soared for another smash giving Belgium a second set point at 8-7. Nadal knocked a volley squealing Spanish fans thought was a winner, but Belgium got the ball back in play and Vliegen blocked a backhand volley that eluded the world No. 1 to seal the 57-minute opener.

In a set devoid of a break point, both teams won precisely 38 points in the set with Belgium holding a 23-12 edge in winners.

The US Open champion was serving at 3-4 when Vliegen scooped a two-handed return down the line for the first break point of the match on the 114th point played. Nadal saved it then narrowly survived a scare when Vliegen's down the line return was millimeters wide as Spain held to level after eight games.

Shrugging off that near miss, Vliegen cruised through a love hold for 5-4.

Two games later, Nadal knifed a forehand through the middle for triple break point. Spain again challenged a Belgium volley and this time video review should Vliegen's racquet crossed the net contacting the ball. Spain gained the first break for 6-5.



On set point, Nadal slid a wide serve and scalded a smash securing the second set.

The 10-point tie break would decide the semifinalist.

The bearded Gille snapped off successive aces putting Belgium up 3-2. Nadal made his move curling a forehand winner down the line for the mini break and a 5-4 Spanish lead. Gille clanked a double fault into net as Spain seized a second mini-break and 8-5 lead.

On Spain's third match point, a tight Vliegen scattered a second serve wide and Spain pulled through to set up Saturday's semifinal vs. Australia.

"It was really tough to play today my first match here on this center court," Carreno Busta said. "It's never easy to play the first match here. We fight for every point. At the beginning of the match, I missed a lot of returns but with Rafa on the other side it's always easier."

 

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