PARIS: Rafael Nadal buried the disappointment of his US Open loss to put Spain within reach of the Davis Cup final on Friday, but champions Serbia were facing elimination after an injury blow ruled out world number one Novak Djokovic.
Nadal, defeated by Djokovic in the US Open final on Monday, thrashed Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 before David Ferrer defeated Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 at the Cordoba bullring as Spain led France 2-0 in their semi-final.
In Belgrade, where Serbia were facing Argentina, Djokovic was pulled from his scheduled clash against David Nalbandian, blaming fatigue and a back injury he suffered in the brutal final in New York.
Nalbandian defeated Victor Troicki, who replaced Djokovic, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 before former US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro eased past Janko Tipsarevic 7-5, 6-3, 6-4, his third career win over the Serb, as the South Americans also led 2-0.
Victory for four-time champions Spain and Argentina, who have yet to win a Davis Cup, the doubles will guarantee them places in the final.
Nadal had admitted to tiredness after his US Open final defeat but said that “if I come, it is above all to defend my country.”
He gave Gasquet no chance in 30°C heat, breaking the Frenchman at the first time of asking and never giving his rival the hint of a chance before an enthusiastic 10,000 crowd.
“Even tired Nadal remains an exceptional player,” said Gasquet, who has now lost all his 10 meetings with the Spaniard.
“I couldn’t find a way past him. It’s a painful defeat.”
Nadal said: “That worked out well, I managed to play with a cool head and do what I had to do throughout without losing concentration for a minute.
“Luckily everything worked out fine and we are 1-0 ahead, which is important.”
Troicki, who won the decisive rubber in last year’s final against France as Serbia won a first Davis Cup title, admitted his game was below par against the wily Nalbandian.
“I played OK but not good enough to beat Nalbandian,” said Troicki. “I was lacking confidence because I had some bad tournaments coming into this match. I felt ready physically but didn’t feel good on the court. — AFP