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Record-Setting Rafa Returns in Style

Rafael NadalRafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal described his return to action as “a day to remember” after the 16-time Grand Slam winner pulled Spain level in their Davis Cup quarterfinal against Germany.

Nadal, playing his first match since limping out of the Australian Open in January with a hip injury, beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in just over two and half hours in Valencia, stretching his winning streak in the Davis Cup to a record 23 matches in singles and doubles.

The victory for the world number one in the Plaza de Toros bullring levelled the tie after world number four Alexander Zverev beat 33rd-ranked David Ferrer 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, AFP reported.

“Of course, it’s a positive thing to win in straight sets,” said 31-year-old Nadal, who has not lost a singles match in the Davis Cup since his 2004 debut and in doubles since 2005. “I played a solid match. I feel good when I return to the clay courts.”

Nadal, building up to an assault on what he hopes will be an 11th French Open title, said it had been a special day playing on home ground again.

“It’s a memorable day, in front of my own crowd. It’s always special to play in these arenas,” added Nadal, who has played in four of Spain’s five Davis Cup-winning teams. “It’s great to be back even if after an injury it’s always difficult.”

Spain’s team has history on its side - winning 26 straight home ties, with the last defeat on Spanish soil against Brazil in 1999.

The winner of the Valencia quarterfinal will face either defending champions France or Italy for a place in the final.

Lucas Pouille, the world number 11, gave France the first point in Genoa with a 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1 win over 62nd-ranked Andreas Seppi.

Italian number one Fabio Fognini then won a bad-tempered 3hr 30min rubber against world number 80 Jeremy Chardy 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to make the tie 1-1.

Fognini, who spent over 11 hours on court in the victory over Japan in the first round, was furious after Chardy had brushed his shoulder against him during a changeover early in the third set.

“I didn’t even know if I really touched him on the shoulder. He made this a huge thing, like in football sometimes where the guy you don’t touch still collapses,” said Chardy.

Chardy, a surprise selection ahead of Adrian Mannarino, the world 25, suffered his first Davis Cup defeat in six matches.

 

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