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Champions Spain out of Davis Cup

March 06, 2005 08:53 IST

Having wielded the Davis Cup sword to such devastating effect last season, Spain have been slain by it, falling to Slovakia in the first round.

The Spaniards won the 2004 final on an agonisingly-slow Seville clay court specially prepared to suit their style but were treated to a dose of their own medicine by Slovakia on Saturday as they skidded out of the competition on a lightning-quick hard court in Bratislava.

Spain had complained bitterly about the speed of the surface but their time would have been better spent preparing for it.

In the event, they lost Saturday's doubles to hand the wily Slovaks an unassailable 3-0 lead and will leave Bratislava undone by the very court selection tactic they have previously used to such brilliant effect.

"This type of court is very difficult for us," a dejected Spanish captain Jordi Arrese said after Karol Beck and Michal Mertinak had clinched the upset with a tight 7-6, 6-4, 7-6 win over Rafael Nadal and Albert Costa.

Nadal agreed.

"Being defeated away from home happens to nearly everyone," he said. "When you can choose the surface you have a big advantage.

"They scored a goal against us in that way. We said they were the favourites beforehand just as the way we are when we play at home."


Claycourter Costa grudgingly conceded defeat. "It's true they were better than us," he said. "But if we played 10 times I would like to see if they could produce that sort of performance again.

"Some things are very easy to see and that is that teams that play away from home lose."

However, Spanish Tennis Federation president Pedro Munoz was more outspoken, saying that the rules of the competition need to be examined.

"We want to make sure that the rules are changed so that situations like this don't occur again and we will be working to change them immediately," he said.

"This sort of thing damages the Davis Cup, the spectacle and the fans. We all know that this was irregular."

Switzerland, missing world number one Roger Federer who is concentrating on the ATP Tour, looked in deep trouble as they lost both Friday's opening singles against the Netherlands.

However, Yves Allegro and George Bastl clawed their way back from two sets down to beat Dennis Van Scheppingen and Peter Wessels in a 5-7, 4-6, 7-6, 7-5, 9-7 epic to keep the hosts in touch.

The winner of that tie will face Slovakia in the quarter-finals.

Joining Slovakia in the quarters were Australia.

They clinched their victory when Todd Woodbridge and Wayne Arthurs beat Austrians Jurgen Melzer and Julian Knowle 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.

"That was a tough one to grind out," Australia captain John Fitzgerald said.

Australia, 28 times Davis Cup champions, dominated the singles on Friday when Lleyton Hewitt beat Alexander Peya 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and Wayne Arthurs beat Melzer 7-6, 6-2, 6-4.


Argentina also booked their quarter-final spot, taking a 3-0 lead over the Czech Republic.

David Nalbandian and Guillermo Canas beat Tomas Zib and Jan Hernych 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 having both won their singles on Friday.

Argentina face an away tie at Australia next, almost certainly on grass.

"It will be difficult against Australia," Argentine captain Alberto Mancini said. "The only advantage we will have is that it will be after the grass court season."

In Moscowm Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny teamed up to give Russia a 2-1 lead over Chile. The duo beat Adrian Garcia and Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in 90 minutes.

"We were playing hard from the start ... to finish it off as soon as possible," Safin told a post-match news conference.

France took a 2-1 lead over Sweden in Strasbourg when Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra beat Jonas Bjorkman and Simon Aspelin 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.

Belarussia' Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov paired up to give their country the edge over Romania.

The visitors overcame Romania's Andrei Pavel and Gabriel Trifu 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 for a 2-1 lead going into the final day.

The winner of that tie will face either the United States or Croatia.

Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic gave the Croatians a 2-1 lead on Saturday with a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over American doubles specialists Bob and Mike Bryan.

The defeat was the first in the competition for the siblings on home soil.

On Friday, Andy Roddick beat Ancic 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to level the match after Ljubicic had spoiled Andre Agassi's return to the competition with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 defeat.

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