MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (Reuters) - Spain overcame the absence of world number one Rafael Nadal to clinch the Davis Cup on Sunday when Fernando Verdasco beat Jose Acasuso to give them a 3-1 win over Argentina in the final.
Verdasco, brought in to replace Spain's off-form number one David Ferrer, won 6-3 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-1 to hand Argentina their third defeat in three final appearances and their first home loss for 10 years.
Verdasco, whose win gave Spain their third Davis Cup title, had himself been overlooked for Friday's opening singles but earned himself a chance by winning Saturday's doubles alongside Feliciano Lopez.
Acasuso, ranked 48th, was thrown into the fray after Argentina's number one Juan Martin del Potro was ruled out with a pulled muscle in his right leg.
"It's a dream. I've wanted this chance since I was a boy, few get it and even fewer take it," said an elated Verdasco after defying a partisan 11,000 crowd at the indoor Islas Malvinas arena.
"I think Rafael Nadal has...brought triumphs for the team...and it's thanks to his wins that we are here," said Spain captain Emilio Sanchez Vicario.
"But the players who are here deserve the repercussions. They have brought the team forward so they deserve all the headlines and the praise."
Argentina, unbeaten in 13 home matches, had begun as firm favourites but their chances nose-dived when Del Potro was surprisingly beaten by Lopez on Friday and injured his leg in the process.
A win in Saturday's doubles then put the visitors in the driving seat and the news that Del Potro would not play on Sunday was another blow.
"Del Potro's absence was a big hole in the team and complicated things," said Argentina captain Alberto Mancini. "We were still close and had some chances but we ended up losing."
The dead fifth rubber was not played.
Acasuso started nervously and lost his serve in the fifth game after three unforced errors in quick succession.
The Argentine had his first break point in the ninth game but Verdasco saved it and took the set when Acasuso overhit two shots in a row.
Acasuso started the second set confidently and broke serve in the second game, helped by two double faults from his opponent.
After three breaks of serve in a row between the seventh and ninth games, the set went to a tiebreak but Acasuso always had his nose in front and levelled the match when Verdasco ended a long rally by sending a backhand into the net.
Acasuso was by now playing some excellent tennis, producing a brilliant drive from the back of the court from a Verdasco smash and an inspired crosscourt shot as he broke twice in a row at the start of the third set.
Verdasco, ruffled by whistling when he was serving, replied with a break of his own in between and levelled the set in the eighth game when Acasuso sent an easy volley and smash into the net.
But the Argentine broke back in the ninth game and wrapped up the set when Verdasco, having saved two set points, hit the ball out after a long rally.
At this point, it looked as if Acasuso could take the tie to a decisive rubber involving Nalbandian which would have left the hosts as favourites.
Instead, Verdasco broke in the sixth game of the fourth set to level the match.
With his opponent looking tired and demoralised, Verdasco strolled through the final set, wrapping up the match with a rasping forehand down the line after the Argentine had saved two match points.
"In the Davis Cup, you have to fight to the death and you always have to keep your hope of winning. This mental strength helped me win the match," Verdasco said.
6 months ago