Nadal, Ferrer have French on rack

Rafael Nadal cast off fatigue and his US Open final loss to Novak Djokovic to thrash Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 in Friday’s opening rubber of the Davis Cup semifinal as Spain took a 2-0 lead over France.

David Ferrer then defeated Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 to leave four-times champions Spain needing just a win in Saturday’s doubles at the Cordoba bullring to ensure their place in the final.

It was one way traffic from the start as world No. 2 Nadal blitzed Gasquet and Ferrer destroyed Simon as the Spaniards brutally underlined their status of favourites on home clay as they look to book a final against either defending champions Serbia or Argentina, who were facing off in Belgrade.

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 degrees Celsuis 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.

“I couldn’t find a way past him. It’s a defeat that hurts,” added the French player after his 10th loss in as many meetings with the Spaniard.

It all worked out
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.”

Nadal admitted that physically he had begun feeling he was close to his limits — but he said that Gasquet had not helped his own cause.

“There were moments where he helped me in making mistakes, not forcing me to play long points,” Nadal explained.

“My service was working well and that made me feel much more comfortable.”

With two top five ranked players in Nadal and Ferrer, Spain are bidding to reach the final for the third time in four years in Cordoba’s bullring.

And they moved right to the brink as Nadal and Ferrer ensured the French were given no chance of repeating last year’s 5-0 whitewash over their hosts in last year’s World Group quarterfinals.

Chances for the French?
The French ultimately lost to Serbia in the final but their chances of reaching another trophy match have all but disappeared after Nadal took his career series with 15th-ranked Gasquet to 10-0 before fifth-ranked Ferrer proved far too strong for Simon, ranked 11.

Having dropped serve to give Nadal the opening set on the two-time champion’s third set point, Gasquet managed thereafter to win just one more game as the Spaniard tore past him in two hours and six minutes — helped by a 100% return on first serve points won in the second set while he was equally dominant in the third set.

Ferrer needed only two minutes longer to wipe out Simon, who was never at the races aside from some second set resistance as Ferrer took his head-to-head record over his rival to 3-1.

Spanish doubles specialists Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco can now finish the job on Saturday as they go up against Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

A Spanish win in that one would render irrelevant Nadal’s meeting with Simon and Ferrer’s encounter with Gasquet in Sunday’s reverse singles. — AFP

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