Tomas Berdych and Radek "the Spent" Stepanek tried to go back to the well once again, as the unsurprising surprise substitute doubles team for the Czech Republic, but it couldn't stem the flow: Spain swept the Davis Cup final with a straight-sets win in the doubles, becoming the first team in 11 years (following Sweden) to defend the title successfully.
That sealed the narrative: Spain is officially a Davis Cup dynasty nation - clearly the team of the first decade of this new century, the team of the 00s, thanks in large part to the handiwork as well as inspiration provided by Rafael Nadal. But - and this is important - Spain captain Albert Costa explained the success of his squad best when he remarked: “We didn’t expect to win it this quickly. The key to this team has been its unity.”
The case was made best last December, when Spain triumphed over a bickering, morose, fragmented Argentina squad in the final. Playing without Nadal, Spain pulled off one of the great upsets of Davis Cup history, in a final played in Argentina, where sports fans bleed pale blue and white. That win remains the most critical component in the making of this dynasty, an unusual distinction given that - on paper - that was one of the weaker Spain teams of recent years, and that Spain was on the road. That's a tribute to team unity, and the disarray on the Argentina side just underscored Costa's blunt appraisal.
Nadal's own analysis, while heartfelt, remains a little hard to swallow at face value. He said of Spain's success: “First thing, you have to have good players. In Spain, we have a lot. Sure, last year was disappointing for me not to be there, but for sure the team was better. They play unbelievable and they won, so they did much better without me than with me.”
That may smack of false - or at least earnestly misguided - modesty, but it has a subtext: Nadal's success over recent years both inspired the team, and made each of its members want to demonstrate that Spain was no one-man show. In a sense, then, his absence from the Spain club last year had a liberating effect on his comrades. And he had prepared them for the success by the example he'd set over the years. That element can't be overstated, given the critical role self-belief plays in tennis, even in team competition. And that's why I think Nadal sealed his claim as the Davis Cup MVP of the decade; all it needed this week was to make if official.