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Nadal keeps Spain alive against Russia in Davis Cup Finals

Rafael Nadal kept Spain’s hopes alive against Russia in the inaugural Davis Cup Finals on Tuesday.

The top-ranked Spaniard defeated Karen Khachanov 6-3, 7-6 (7) to level the series 1-1 after Andrey Rublev had rallied to beat Roberto Bautista-Agut 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (0) in the first match.

Nadal converted his second match point at the packed “Caja Mágica” (Magic Box) center court. That ensured the tie will be decided in the doubles match, which was set to start after midnight local time.

Spain's Rafael Nadal plays against Russia's Karen Khachanov during their Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

In the revamped Davis Cup format debuting this year, teams play only two singles and a doubles in each tie, with the group winners advancing to the knockout stage along with the two best second-place finishers in the six groups.

Russia defeated defending champion Croatia in Group on Monday.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Britain’s Andy Murray will make their first appearance on Wednesday. Serbia takes on Japan and Britain plays the Netherlands.

Spain's Rafael Nadal serves to Russia's Karen Khachanov during their Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

The Davis Cup Finals is being played in World Cup-style with all 18 teams playing in a single venue in the same week. It is the result of a 25-year partnership between the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos, a group co-founded by Barcelona soccer player Gerard Piqué.

Brazil star Neymar was among the more than 12,000 in attendance at the “Caja Mágica,” which also included a marching band organized by Spanish fans that fired up the crowd throughout the matches.

US FALLS

France's Nicolas Mahut, right, and Pierre-Hugues Herbert celebrate a point against Japan's Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama, during their Davis Cup double tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoManu Fernandez)

The United States lost to Canada for the first time in the Davis Cup after Vasek Pospisil edged Reilly Opelka 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) and Denis Shapovalov defeated Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 6-3.

“Came down to a few points,” Opelka said. “Thought I did my part, played well, served well, and I put myself in a position to win. He was just too good.”

The U.S. had won all previous 15 meetings with their North American neighbors, though they had not met since 1965.

Argentina's Diego Schwartzman celebrates after beating Chile's Cristian Garin during their Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

FRANCE WINS

Two days after clinching the doubles title in the ATP Finals, French duo Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut secured France an opening win.

Herbert and Mahut rallied to defeat Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5 in the deciding doubles match in Group A, giving top-ranked France a 2-1 victory.

Chile's Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, foreground, and Nicolas Jarry serve to Argentina's Maximo Gonzalez and Leonardo Mayer during their Davis Cup double tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

The French duo squandered two match points while serving at 5-4, but capitalized on their chance at 6-5 to clinch the victory for last year’s Davis Cup runner-up.

The teams were tied after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga cruised past Uchiyama 6-2, 6-1 and Yoshihito Nishioka defeated Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-2.

Herbert and Mahut did not drop a single set in five matches at the ATP Finals, where they defeated Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand in the final on Sunday.

Yoshihito Nishioka returns to France's Gael Monfils during their Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

“We know we’ve arrived late from London, but the captain had a lot of confidence in our team,” Mahut said. “There was a lot of intensity in the win but we’re really happy today. This was a really difficult tie.”

ARGENTINA CRUISES

Argentina comfortably got past Chile 3-0 in Group C, with Guido Pella beating Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 6-3 and Diego Schwartzman defeating Cristian Garin 6-2, 6-2.

France's Gael Monfils plays against Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka during their Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

The tie was already decided when Máximo González and Leonardo Mayer topped Jarry and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo 6-3, 7-5 in the doubles match.

“It’s the end of the season but I think I played one of the best matches for sure of the year, maybe in my career,” the 14th-ranked Schwartzman said. “I think Guido helped me a lot to be more confident in this match and I played unreal tennis.”

KAZAKHSTAN WINS AGAIN

Chile's Cristian Garin reacts during the Davis Cup tennis match against Argentina's Diego Schwartzman in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoBernat Armangue)

Kazakhstan also needed the doubles match to beat the Netherlands 2-1 and clinch its first away Davis Cup win since 2011.

The Group E victory came after Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik defeated Robin Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6 (2). Kukushkin had beaten Botic van de Zanschulp 6-2, 6-2, while Haase defeated Bublik 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

“I almost died there,” Bublik said, jokingly.

Robin Haase, of the Netherlands, returns the ball to Alexander Bublik, of Kazakhstan, during a Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoManu Fernandez)

AUSTRALIA AHEAD

Australia beat Colombia behind Nick Kyrgios’ 6-4, 6-4 win over Alejandro González and Alex de Minaur’s 6-4, 6-3 victory over Daniel Elahi Galan.

Colombia had lost to Belgium on Monday.

Alexander Bublik, of Kazakhstan servers to Robin Haase, of the Netherlands during a Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoManu Fernandez)

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Russia's Andrey Rublev returns the ball to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut during their Davis Cup tennis match in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP PhotoManu Fernandez)