Madrid: Rafael Nadal gave all he had on the Caja Magica center court in Madrid. The top-ranked Spanish star even admitted he risked getting injured by playing eight matches - five singles, three doubles - in six days at the Davis Cup Finals, the new World Cup of men's team tennis.
Nadal won all his matches, leading Spain to its sixth Davis Cup title after a 2-0 win over first-time finalist Canada on Sunday.
But in Nadal's eyes, the only hero for Spain was grieving teammate Roberto Bautista Agut. He sent Spain on its way to victory by winning the first singles match on Sunday, three days after the death of his father.
"I've won the eight matches but the person who was vital in this Davis Cup was Roberto," Nadal said. "For me, what he did was something almost inhumane. I don't know how to explain it. It will be an example for the rest of my life. He had to leave, then his dad died, then he came back and practiced with us yesterday, and today he was ready again to play at a very high level. It was something incredible."
Before Nadal defeated Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 7-6 (7) to clinch the title - Spain's first since also winning at home in 2011 - Bautista Agut had given Spain a 1-0 lead by beating Félix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (3), 6-3.
Bautista Agut pointed his finger to the sky after winning the final point in his match, and was in tears while speaking briefly to the crowd, which chanted his name. "It was an amazing feeling on the court today," said Bautista Agut, who was the Spanish player lifting the cup in the title celebrations.
Bautista Agut's father died on Thursday - a day after his son had defeated Nikola Mektic of Croatia - with his health deteriorating quickly after an illness that stemmed from a 2016 accident.
It was Nadal who had tears in his eyes when Bautista Agut thanked him for his efforts during the tournament.
"You gave us goosebumps all week, especially today," Bautista Agut said. "Thank you. I'm sure that next year you will do it again."
The 31-year-old Bautista Agut, No. 9 in the world, played as teammates Pablo Carreño Busta and Marcel Granollers nursed injuries entering the final.
"I had the opportunity to play today because all the team and all the players did an unbelievable effort since the first day," Bautista Agut said.