CORDOBA, Spain (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal proved he had put his exertions at the U.S. Open firmly behind him when he thrashed France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-0 6-2 6-4 to put Spain through to the Davis Cup final on Sunday.
The burly Tsonga had helped France to victory in Saturday's doubles to keep the best of five tie alive at 2-1 but was powerless against Nadal's relentless claycourt game as the world number two claimed his 17th win in 18 Davis Cup singles matches.
The victory gave Spain, who are bidding for a third title in four years and will play champions Serbia or Argentina in December's final, an unbeatable 3-1 lead ahead of the remaining singles rubber.
After losing both singles in Belgrade on Friday, Serbia took Saturday's doubles to maintain their hopes of defending the title they won last year with a 3-2 victory over the French.
Nadal said he would prefer to play Argentina in the final as that would mean Spain would be at home and able to choose the venue and surface.
He also reiterated his criticism of the Davis Cup format, which he argues puts too much strain on players already committed to a packed ATP Tour calendar.
"It's always nicer to play at home and the court factor is very important," he said of the final in an interview with Spanish television.
"Another reason is that I have more friends in Argentina than in Serbia," the Mallorca native added.
On another sweltering day in Cordoba, Nadal followed up his demolition of Richard Gasquet in Friday's opening singles with an equally commanding display on his favored surface at the Andalusian city's converted bullring.
The 25-year-old lost a grueling U.S. Open final to Novak Djokovic on Monday before flying straight back to Spain and he had little time to adjust to clay from hardcourts.
He did not face a single break point against Tsonga, converting six of the 17 he created, and sealed victory on his first match point when the Frenchman went long with a backhand, sending the red and yellow-clad home support into raptures.
"You can only experience atmospheres like this at the Davis Cup. It's a very special competition and it's always special for me to play in front of the Spanish public," Nadal said.
"I don't have many opportunities and when I do I try to make the most of them."
Nadal has not lost a Davis Cup singles since he was beaten by Czech Jiri Novak on his debut in 2004.
Spain captain Albert Costa told local television: "Losing the doubles yesterday made things a bit more complicated but as I have always said beating France 3-0 is very tough.
"The truth is the Davis Cup has been good to us these past few years and we have developed into a very strong team."
(Writing by Iain Rogers in Madrid, editing by Martyn Herman)