Feliciano Lopez, who had been handed the unenviable task of replacing injured world number one Rafael Nadal, stormed to Spain’s rescue when he levelled the Davis Cup final against Argentina.
The stylish left-hander defeated Argentine number one Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 to make the score 1-1 after David Nalbandian had put the home side ahead with an easy 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win over David Ferrer in the opening singles rubber on Friday.
Lopez overcame a passionate 11,000-strong home crowd at the Estadio Islas Malvinas to see off the 6ft 6in giant Del Potro who ended the match with a crippling groin injury which could rule him out of Sunday’s reverse singles.
Del Potro, who had secured Argentina’s final place with a live fifth rubber win over Igor Andreev in September’s semi-final against Russia, had cruised through the first set with a break in the fifth game.
But Lopez, seven years the Argentine’s senior, then took two nerve-tingling tie-breaks, defying the wild support of the local crowd who were repeatedly warned by the umpire to curb their enthusiasm. Del Potro hurt his groin when he went 2-4 down in the fourth set and he never recovered with Lopez taking the match after 3hrs 20mins when the home player netted a comfortable forehand. “Emotionally, that was the best win of my career,” said Lopez.