Rafael Nadal gave Spain a 1-0 lead against Argentina in the Davis Cup final, after easily beating Juan Mónaco 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.
Nadal eased to victory on his favoured clay at Estadio Olímpico in Seville, breaking his opponent seven times.
Mónaco held his first-service game but Nadal took control by winning the next seven games. The six-times French Open champion dominated many of the long rallies, which often ended with Nadal hitting a winner or Mónaco making an error.
The four-times champions, Spain, hope that David Ferrer will beat Juan Martín del Potro in the second singles rubber later on Friday to give them a commanding lead in the best-of-five tie.
“The best part of my game was I didn’t make mistakes,” said Nadal, whose record now stands at 19-1 in Davis Cup singles play and 12-0 on clay. “The most important thing is we’re up 1-0. We’re confident David can make it 2-0.”
In front of about 27,000 spectators including Spain’s King Juan Carlos, Nadal looked nothing like the player who struggled in the ATP World Tour Finals in London last week, when he admitted to feeling less passionate about the game.
Mónaco held his first serve with an ace, but struggled to hold off Nadal thereafter, as the Spaniard converted the first of 14 break chances with a forehand passing shot for a 2-1 lead.
“I was a little nervous at the start but after I broke him, I started playing well,” said Nadal, who has not dropped a set in the Davis Cup in more than three years.
Nadal’s impressive selection of winners – he hit 26 in all – kept Mónaco off-kilter during many long rallies, with Nadal clinching the first set when Mónaco netted a forehand.
Nadal enjoyed a remarkable fourth game in the second, when he sprinted across the court repeatedly to keep balls in play before curling a backhand down the line for the point.
In the fifth game of the third set, Mónaco fell into the net to give Nadal a break chance, and the Argentinian was again on the floor after a lengthy exchange that ended with a Nadal smash at the net for 3-2. Monaco had his left wrist taped and carried a bloodied left knee.
Nadal, who did not drop a point on his second serve and scored a total of 89 points to Monaco’s 52, closed out the match in 2 hours, 27 minutes when Mónaco netted a backhand for his 43rd unforced error.
Spain has not lost on clay for 22 ties, including a record 20 successive wins on home soil dating back to 1999, as they compete for their third title in four years.
Argentina, in the final for the fifth time, have yet to win the Davis Cup.