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Australia win opening singles against Belarus

April 07, 2006 15:55 IST

Australia seized control of their Davis Cup quarter-final with Belarus on Friday when Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione won their opening singles matches at Kooyong in Melbourne.

Hewitt demolished Vladimir Voltchkov 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in just 91 minutes to give the hosts a commanding 2-0 lead after Guccione had upset Max Mirnyi 7-6, 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 in a see-saw match that lasted nearly four hours.

Guccione shot to fame by winning the deciding rubber in Australia's first round win over Switzerland last month when Hewitt declared himself unavailable.

The towering left-hander proved he was no one-hit wonder with a stirring victory over Mirnyi that featured 20 aces.

"It's the biggest win of my career," he said in a televised interview.

"In front of my home crowd there's no better feeling. I was very nervous but I relaxed into the match."

Australia's non-playing captain John Fitzgerald said Guccione's surprise victory had given the team the perfect platform to go on and win the best-of-five tie and set up a semi-final meeting with either Croatia or Argentina.

"It was great for him and it does open up the day when you've got a player of (Hewitt's) calibre coming in second," Fitzgerald told reporters.

"It makes it tough for the opposition when they've lost the first one. So a terrific day for us."

MAJOR SETBACK

Mirnyi, ranked 51st in the world, 117 places above Guccione, refused to concede the tie was over but admitted his loss was a major setback.

"Sure it's a disappointment when you're number one in your team and you're playing their number two, you're expected to win everytime," Mirnyi said.

"But isn't that what Davis Cup's all about? You guys (Australia) are so happy -- one-nil up, and we're a little bit disappointed and Chris Guccione is the new hero."

Voltchkov had tried to needle Hewitt in the lead-up to their match by telling reporters he had nothing to fear from the former world number one who hasn't won a tournament in over a year.

But the Belarussian, ranked 457th in the world, had no answer to Hewitt's relentless accuracy as the Australian chalked up his 28th Davis Cup singles win.

"To come through these situations is very important because Davis Cup can make or break guys' careers in a lot of ways," Hewitt said.

Mirnyi and Voltchkov will team up in Saturday's doubles rubber against Australia's Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley, needing to win to keep the tie alive before Sunday's concluding reverse singles.

(Writing by Julian Linden in Sydney)



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