BENIDORM, Spain (Reuters) - World number one Rafael Nadal beat number three Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-4 6-4 6-1 on Sunday to give champions Spain victory in their Davis Cup first-round tie and a place in the last eight against Germany.
The Australian Open champion’s win gave Spain an unassailable 3-1 lead and David Ferrer, who upset an erratic Djokovic in the delayed opening singles on Saturday, wrapped up a 4-1 victory when he beat Viktor Troicki 6-0 6-3 in the shortened remaining singles in the best-of-five tie.
The second seeds will play Germany at home in July’s world group quarter-finals after Nicolas Kiefer beat Juergen Melzer on Sunday to give them an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie against Austria in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Nadal had thrashed Janko Tipsarevic to put Spain 2-0 ahead on Saturday before Serbia took the doubles to keep them alive ahead of Sunday’s reverse singles.
The tie had been due to begin on Friday but play was postponed after high winds damaged the seating at the purpose-built arena around the clay court in the hills above the Mediterranean resort of Benidorm.
Djokovic put up a better fight against Nadal than he had in his error-strewn loss to Ferrer but he was unable to cope with the powerful Majorcan’s superior hitting and his attempts to mix it up with dropshots largely ended in failure.
Nadal sealed victory with a thumping backhand winner down the line after just under two-and-a-half hours in front of the noisy and colorful home support in the Costa Blanca sunshine.
It was his 12th win in 12 Davis Cup singles since he lost his debut against Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic in 2004 and he improved his record on clay since 2005 to 133 wins and only four defeats.
Nadal thanked the Spanish supporters and paid tribute to the organizers for coping with the difficult weather conditions last week when the town was buffeted by winds of almost 90 kph, disrupting the players’ practice time.
“Djokovic was much better than yesterday, playing with more rhythm and confidence but the ball was kicking up quite a lot and that was favorable for me,” he said at a news conference.
“We are playing at home again in the quarters and that gives us a great chance of making it to the semis.”
Djokovic had complained on Saturday about the lack of practice time on clay with the players in the middle of the hard-court season.
“It’s not an excuse but if the conditions had been better and we had had more time to practice I think we would have put up a better fight,” he said at a news conference.
“I wasn’t 100 percent prepared,” he added. “It’s not easy switching from a quick surface to a slow one like clay, especially when you are up against the number one in the world.”
Editing by Clare Fallon