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Feat of Clay
Franz Lidz
December 18, 2000
Spain won its first Davis Cup by grinding Australia into the home court dirt
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December 18, 2000

Feat Of Clay

Spain won its first Davis Cup by grinding Australia into the home court dirt

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Instead, Hewitt stuck it to Costa in a stunning four-hour, five-set display of nerve and baseline bravado. Costa, 25, won the first five games and two of the first three sets by topspinning and counterpunching, but as the match wore on, his ground strokes found the net. All the heckling finally seemed to hit home when Hewitt served for the match at 5-4 in the fifth set. He fell behind 0-40, but then he denied Costa with two aces and a couple of forehand drives. At match point Costa sent a final backhand flying long, and Hewitt fell to the ground and was engulfed by his teammates.

That left Ferrero to take on Rafter, the two-time U.S. Open champ. Rafter, who missed last year's Davis Cup victory because of shoulder surgery, made headlines in 1997 when he played a dead-rubber Sunday singles match with a hellacious hangover. Against the fleet Ferrero, Rafter looked a little woozy. He couldn't run with the Spaniard, so he tried to outshoot him, rushing the net at nearly every turn. Unfortunately, with the match tied in the third set, Rafter began to cramp in both legs and his right hand. After losing that set and his serve early in the fourth, he retired.

Following the doubles the 35-year-old Woodforde planned to retire for good. He was without longtime partner Todd Wood-bridge, with whom he shares 11 Grand Slam titles. The other Woody was on paternity standby in Orlando. Instead Woodforde was paired with Stolle, son of the more famous Fred. In Woodforde's staggering Davis Cup doubles record of 16-5, two of the defeats had come in tandem with Stolle. "I always know what Todd is thinking," Woodforde said. "With Sandon, I don't."

The Spanish team of Corretja and Joan Balcells seemed to be onto Woodforde and Stolle, anticipating their every angle and spin and countering with orangutan overheads and swooping forehands. Stolle dropped his serve in the opening game amid the hubbub of the spectators, and Australia dropped the match 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Duarte later awarded the crowd 11 points out of 10 for its thunderous support.

The fourth match, on Sunday, featured those two slender, telegenic hotshots, Ferrero and Hewitt. From the safe redoubt of the baseline, Ferrero pounced on Hewitt's faulty forehand and waited for him to make mistakes. Hewitt obliged, losing the first set 6-2. Then, while leading 3-1 in the second-set tiebreaker, he hit a backhand long, a forehand long and a forehand wide. He didn't steady himself until the third set, which he won 6-4.

With King Juan Carlos looking on and his subjects shouting "Vamos! Vamos! Vamos!" the weary Ferrero played with the fire of flamenco in the fourth set. A backhand lob carried him to match point, and a screaming backhand down the line clinched the Cup. For the first time in five centuries, the Spanish had earned the right to be called conquistadores.

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