AFP Rafael Nadal thrashed Alexander Zverev as Spain set up a Davis Cup semifinal against holder France with a dramatic fightback against Germany in Valencia on Sunday.
The world No. 1’s 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win in Valencia drew the tie level at 2-2, before veteran David Ferrer battled to a marathon 7-6 (7-1), 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-5 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber to finish the job.
Two breaks in each set were enough for Nadal to seal an impressively comfortable victory over world No. 4 Zverev in what was only the 31-year-old’s second outing since returning from a hip injury.
Nadal said after the match he is still regaining sharpness.
“The first set was fantastic,” Nadal said. “There were times when I lost a bit of control because the match was tough. I had not competed for a long time and to maintain the level of the first set was complicated for me.
“But in general it was a very important match and I am very happy.”
Nadal was forced to retire from his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic in January but, back on his favored 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 the Davis Cup.
Elsewhere, defending champion France booked a home semifinal against Spain as Lucas Pouille claimed a hard-fought win over Italy’s Fabio Fognini in Genoa to give the visitors a 3-1 victory in the tie.
“I won without playing my best tennis, those are the best types of victories,” Pouille said after his first Davis Cup win over a top-20 player.
World No. 11 Pouille, who had beaten Andreas Seppi in five sets on Friday, came from behind to see off Fognini 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 and send Yannick Noah’s France into the semis for the third time in four years.
Croatia will host the United States in the other semifinal in September, after Cilic thrashed Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 to wrap up a 3-1 victory for the hosts.