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Russia, Australia take 2-0 lead

April 08, 2006 08:15 IST

Russia and Australia took command of their Davis Cup quarter-finals on Friday but holders Croatia had to be content with a win and a loss from the opening day's two singles rubbers.

Wins for Marat Safin and Nikolay Davydenko gave Russia a 2-0 lead over France in Pau. Australia also seized control of their tie with Belarus when Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione won their opening singles matches in Melbourne.

In Zagreb, Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic came back from two sets and 4-1 down in the third set tiebreak to beat Argentine Agustin Calleri in five sets. David Nalbandian, though, redressed the balance by thrashing Croatian teenager Marin Cilic.

Later on Friday James Blake of the U.S. tackles Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the first rubber of their tie on Californian grass. U.S. number one Andy Roddick plays Nicolas Massu in the second singles.

In Pau, French 19-year-old Richard Gasquet ran out of steam at the end of an enthralling five-setter against 2005 Australian Open champion Safin.

Safin, who in February returned from a seven-month injury layoff, prevailed 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 to banish any fears about his match fitness.

"It was a very, very good match and I am happy to have won a five-setter," said Safin.

World number six Davydenko recovered from a sluggish start to beat Arnaud Clement, who was standing in for an injured Sebastien Grosjean, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6.

His win put Russia only one win away from victory in the best-of-five tie which is a repeat of last year's quarter-final won 3-2 by the Russians in Moscow. Russia also beat France 3-2 in the 2002 final in Paris.

At Kooyong, 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.


Towering left-hander Guccione, who won the deciding rubber in the previous round against Switzerland, described the win over world number 51 Mirnyi as the biggest of his career.

Voltchkov had tried to needle Hewitt in the lead-up to their match 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.

Croatia's hopes suffered a big blow before a shot had even been played when Mario Ancic withdrew from his singles rubber against Nalbandian due to a back injury.

Ljubicic rallied from two sets down to beat Calleri 6-7, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1, 6-2 before world number three Nalbandian brushed aside 17-year-old Cilic 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.

Ljubicic, Croatia's top-ranked player and also their team captain, was staring at defeat after going two sets and 4-1 down in the third set tiebreak before clawing his way back.

"I knew it would be a tough match against Calleri and I had to dig very deep not to put us in a very difficult position on the opening day," Ljubicic told reporters.

"We knew Nalbandian would be too strong for Cilic so I think it's a good result...with so many things going wrong for us."

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