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TENNIS

Rafa to the rescue? Nadal to face Germany’s Zverev with Spain fate in his hands

World number one Rafael Nadal will have to defeat young German star Alexander Zverev on Sunday to keep Spain in the Davis Cup after Germany took a shock 2-1 lead after a marathon doubles triumph.

Rafa to the rescue? Nadal to face Germany's Zverev with Spain fate in his hands
Rafael Nadal is on a record run of 23 successive wins in the Davis Cup. PHOTO: JOSE JORDAN / AFP
Tim Puetz and Jan-Lennard Struff stunned Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (4/7), 7-5 as Spain were left to rue converting just two of 20 break points in a four-hour 40-minute encounter at the Plaza de Toros bullring.
 
Nadal, 31, who marked his comeback on Friday after more than two months on the sidelines with a hip injury by seeing off Philipp Kohlscreiber in his opening singles match, now has to repeat his magic against Zverev, 11 years his junior.
 
Nadal is on a record run of 23 successive wins in the Davis Cup, having not lost since 2005.
 
Five-time champions Spain, meanwhile, have won 26 straight home ties, with their last defeat on Spanish soil against Brazil in 1999.   
 
“I have complete faith in all my players, they're all formidable,” said Spain captain Sergi Bruguera. 
 
Despite the pressure, Nadal can look ahead to his meeting against Zverev with confidence as he boasts a 3-0 record over the beanpole German including their only meeting on clay in Monte Carlo last year.
 
Germany captain Michael Kohlmann hailed his doubles team.
 
“This is what the Davis Cup is all about. It was 50/50 in the end. We got a bit lucky but it feels great,” he said.
 
In Genoa, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert put defending champions France 2-1 up against Italy with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 win over Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli.
 
It took two-time major winners Mahut and Herbert just 1 hour 54 minutes to take revenge for a loss to the Italian duo in the 2015 Australian Open final.
 
Lucas Pouille, the world number 11, will have the chance to clinch a semi-final spot for France for the third time in four years when he faces Fognini in the first of Sunday's reverse singles.
 
“Pierre-Hugues and Nico played the perfect match,” said France captain Yannick Noah. “Now we are going to prepare Lucas to beat Fabio — we will give 150 percent for this match.”
 
The winner of the tie will face either Spain or Germany for a place in the final.
 
Croatia, the 2005 champions, are also one win away from the last-four after Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic defeated the Kazakh pair of Timur Khabibulin and Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
 
“We played together for the first time and that's why we needed some time to find our game,” said Dodig.
 
On Sunday, world number three and former US Open champion Marin Cilic can wrap up the tie when he faces Mikhail Kukushkin, the world 92 in the first of the reverse singles.
 
Kukushkin stunned world number 28 Borna Coric in Friday's singles.
 
In Nashville, the United States became the first country to punch their ticket to the Davis Cup semi-finals on Saturday following a doubles win by Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison.
 
The pair had to work for the victory on the hardcourts which gave the Americans an insurmountable 3-0 lead and a berth in the semis for the first time since 2012.
 
Sock and Harrison needed three hours to dispatch Belgian debutants Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen in four sets 5-7, 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 in front of a crowd of 5,000 at the Curb Event Center.
 
John Isner and Sam Querrey lifted the United States into a 2-0 lead over last year's runners-up Belgium on Friday.
 
Isner needed three hours and 14 minutes to dispose of world number 319 Joris de Loore 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (10/8), 6-4, while world number 14 Querrey beat 110th ranked Ruben Bemelmans 6-1, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5.
 
By AFP's Dave James

TENNIS

Nadal beats Zverev to set Spain up for Davis Cup decider with Germany

Rafael Nadal kept Spain's Davis Cup hopes alive by beating Alexander Zverez on Sunday in the fourth rubber of their quarter-final against Germany.

Nadal beats Zverev to set Spain up for Davis Cup decider with Germany
Germany's Alexander Zverev walks on the pitch during the Davis Cup quarter-final tennis match against Spain's Rafa Nadal at the bullring of Valencia, on Sunday. JOSE JORDAN / AFP
Nadal's 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win in Valencia draws the tie level at 2-2, with Spanish world number 33 David Ferrer up against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fifth and decisive match.
 
Two breaks in each set were enough for Nadal to seal an impressively comfortable victory over Zverev in what was only the 31-year-old's second outing since returning from a hip injury.
 
Nadal was forced to retire at the Australian Open in January but, back on his favoured clay, the 16-time grand slam champion showed little sign of rust against Zverev, whom he has now beaten four times out of four.
 
It was also the 24th consecutive match Nadal has won in Davis Cup.
 
He beat Kohlschreiber in straight sets on Friday after Zverev had overcome Ferrer. Germany then took a 2-1 lead when Tim Puetz and Jan-Lennard Struff won the doubles rubber against Spain's Feliciano and Marc Lopez.