Spaniards avoid sweep as Granollers and Lopez prevail in Davis Cup doubles

Monte Stewart, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Spain staved off Davis Cup elimination Saturday as Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez came back to beat Canada's Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in doubles action.

After trailing 1-0 and 2-1 in sets, Granollers and Lopez ralled to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2. The physically-punishing match lasted three hours 54 minutes at UBC's Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

The loss denied Canada an historic upset sweep of five-time champion Spain.

Canada is attempting to advance to the second round of Davis Cup World Group play for the first time. The Spaniards, who are missing their top stars to injury and rest, now trail the best-of-five tie 2-1.

Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., and Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., staked Canada to a 2-0 lead in singles play Friday.

David Ferrer, ranked fourth in the world, Rafael Nadal (fifth), Nicolas Almagro (11th) and Fernando Verdasco (24th) stayed home. While Nadal and Almagro are out with injuries, Ferrer and Verdasco chose to rest.

Granollers and Lopez captured the ATP World Tour doubles title, while Nestor and Pospisil have had fleeting success together in Davis Cup and Olympic play. But in the early going, the Canadians were able to capitalize on several mistakes by Granollers, who was upset by unheralded Dancevic, ranked 166th in the world, in singles action Friday.

With Spain missing its top stars, Granollers was tagged as Spain's top singles player for this event. He struggled early, shaking his head a number of times at his disappointment and, at one point, throwing his racket on the court in disgust.

But Lopez remained steady throughout the match and help Spain get through its difficulties.

Nestor, from Toronto, made key shots to give Canada the first set win. He put the hosts ahead 5-4 with a backhand that Granollers could not return.

In the next game, his forehand on the final point was too hot to handle. Granollers failed to get to the ball in time as it blazed right through the middle.

Lopez gave Spain the second set on an overhead smash of a Pospisil forehand volley.

The Canadians jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set. In the fourth game, the advantage went back and forth several times before Lopez gave Spain the win with an ace that landed behind in the corner behind Nestor.

After that long, gruelling game, Nestor and Pospisil quickly claimed the next one. But the Spaniards won two straight games, breaking Pospisil's serve on the second one to reduce their deficit to 4-3.

Canada appeared in control of the next game, but mistakes by both Nestor and Pospisil enabled Spain to fight its way back. Nestor returned a Lopez shot into tthe net, creating deuce, and put a shot wide to give Spain the advantage.

The Canadians battled back, but Spain forged another deadlock and eventually forged a 4-4 tie as Pospisil's volley attempt fell short of the net.

Nestor and Pospisil then took two of the next three games to go ahead 6-5, and claimed the set on the tiebreaker as Granollers put a Nestor volley into the net on the decisive tiebreaker point.

But the Spaniards did not let the setback get to them, taking the next set with surprising ease. As the match extended beyond three hours, Granollers, 26, and Lopez, 30, started to display better fitness.

Vancouver's Pospisil, 22, recuperating from a bout of mononucleosis, showed more fatigue than Nestor. But the veteran, who had staged an extensive mid-week practice session in anticipation of a long match, also showed signs of fatigue as he began to miss more shots and struggled to get to the ball.

The Canadians provided little opposition the rest of the way as Granollers and Lopez enjoyed momentum that they lacked at the start — and helped their country avoid embarrassment for at least one day.