|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Russia face defeat as Australia, Spain fly high
Ossian Shine | April 05, 2003 14:44 IST
A dogged Argentine team dealt Russia two heavy body blows on Friday, snatching both opening singles matches from the champions on the first day of their Davis Cup quarter-final.
The mercurial Marat Safin was sorely missed as Russia were punished on the slow Buenos Aires clay. They now trail 2-0 in the best-of-five match contest. Safin's ankle injury kept him out of the singles.
Dogged claycourter Gaston Gaudio crushed former world number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov as Argentina took a firm lead with almost embarrassing ease.
Gaudio overran his opponent 6-4 6-0 6-2 in an hour and 43 minutes to put the Russians in serious danger of losing the title they won against France in Paris last year.
Earlier, Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian also won in straight sets as he dispatched Nikolay Davydenko 6-2 6-2 7-5 in a rain-interrupted opening rubber.
In the top half of the draw, last year's beaten finalists France are locked at 1-1 with Switzerland after Roger Federer humbled local hero Nicolas Escude to draw the visitors level in Toulouse.
The Swiss number one dismissed the French number two 6-4 7-5 6-2 in just two hours. French first choice singles player Sebastien Grosjean earlier secured the first point of the tie for the hosts by beating George Bastl in four sets 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-3.
The winner of that tie in Toulouse is likely to face Australia after they took a firm grip of their match against Sweden in Malmo.
World number one Lleyton Hewitt eased the visitors into a 2-0 lead, seeing off Thomas Enqvist 6-4 6-2 5-7 6-4.
Mark Philippoussis gave the visitors a flying start by beating doubles specialist Jonas Bjorkman 6-4 6-3 6-3.
The opening results leave things looking gloomy for the Swedes ahead of the doubles on Saturday, where Enqvist and Bjorkman team up for their first ever Davis Cup doubles match against Wayne Arthurs and Todd Woodbridge.
"I played well from the start then it turned into a dog fight," Hewitt said. "Thomas played as well as anyone can play but I raised the bar. The last two games were two of the best I've ever played in my career."
"I'm more disappointed than surprised," said Enqvist about the loss. "I didn't really play as well as I needed to beat Lleyton. He played too well, too steady. That's why he is number one in the world."
In Valencia, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya scored crushing singles wins over Croatia's top two players to take Spain to the brink of a Davis Cup quarter-final victory and a likely semi-final against Argentina.
Ferrero put a nervous start behind him to set Spain on their way with a 6-4 6-2 7-6 success over teenager Mario Ancic on the red clay at the Valencia Tennis Club.
Moya, ranked a place behind Ferrero at number four in the world, then won a spectacular tussle with Ivan Ljubicic to make it 2-0 at the end of the first day.
Ljubicic served immensely well throughout the match but Moya held on to claim a 6-7 6-1 6-4 6-4 victory in two hours 57 minutes -- Moya's first victory in four meetings with the Croatian number one.
Ljubicic is due back on court on Saturday to partner Lovro Zovko in the doubles against Albert Costa and Alex Corretja -- a match Croatia must win to keep the tie alive going into the reverse singles on Sunday.
"There's still work for us to do but today was a great day," Spanish captain Jordi Arrese said after Moya's victory.
"For Croatia to take three points off us at home and on clay they'll have to be playing close to perfect tennis. That could always happen, though, and we have to be cautious."