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Brazil beats Spain in Davis Cup playoff

SAO PAULO (AP) — Thomaz Bellucci defeated Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to give Brazil an unassailable 3-1 lead over Spain in a Davis Cup World Group playoff on Sunday, dropping the five-time champions to the zone groups for the first time since 1996.

Bellucci, Brazil’s No. 1 player, converted all three of his break points in the final set to close out the match in 2 hours, 59 minutes at the Ibirapuera indoor arena, putting Brazil back in the main group for the second year in a row.

Spain, playing without Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, came into Sunday trailing 2-1 and needed to win both reverse singles matches to keep its spot in the World Group next year.

“This is one of the greatest moments of my career,” the 83rd-ranked Bellucci said. “It’s a great moment for Brazilian tennis and it comes at the right time. We showed our value today.”

Bellucci had a slow start in the first set but won five straight games to rally from 4-1 down. The 15th-ranked Bautista Agut, Spain’s top player for the clay-court series, tied the match after converting a break point early in the second set, but the Brazilian moved ahead again after breaking to go up 5-3 before closing out the third set.

“It’s amazing to beat a team like Spain, which has been dominant for so long,” Brazil captain Joao Zwetsch said. “Even without their top players, it was a great achievement by our team.”

Spain was the dominant team in the last decade with four Davis Cup titles. Its last triumph was in 2011 in a final against Argentina.

Brazil will play in the World Group for the second consecutive time after being absent since 2003. It lost to the United States in the first round last year.

Spain hadn’t lost on clay since the last time it faced Brazil in 1999, a team led by three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten.

Brazil had beaten Spain only twice in seven meetings coming into this year’s series.

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