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Russia Assumes Commanding Lead; Ancic Starts Well For Croatia

Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, World Group, First Round

safin© Getty Images

Russia 2 Romania 0

Two-time Davis Cup champion Russia assumed a commanding 2-0 lead in its first-round clash with Romania after Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny both secured comfortable wins on Friday in Sibiu, Romania.

Former World No. 1 Safin (pictured) got the visiting nation off to a strong start by defeating the 123rd-ranked Victor Crivoi 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4. The 29-year-old Safin hit 57 winners – including 18 aces - and converted two of three break points to secure victory in one hour and 58 minutes. The Muscovite, who clinched the Davis Cup for Russia in 2006 with victory over Argentina’s Jose Acasuso in the fifth rubber, improved his Davis Cup singles record to 21-15.

World No. 60 Youzhny, the man who recovered from a two-set deficit to defeat Paul-Henri Mathieu in the deciding fifth rubber of the 2002 final against France, followed on court with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory against Romanian No. 1 Victor Hanescu. The 26-year-old Youzhny created 13 break point chances in the two-hour and one-minute match and was able to convert four of them as he recorded his 10th Davis Cup singles rubber win (10-9 record).

Russia, who lost in the semi-finals last year (l. to Argentina), has only lost in the World Group first round once in the past 10 years. Teimuraz Gabasvili and Dmitry Tursunov will line up in the doubles on Saturday against Marius Copil and Horia Tecau in a bid to secure a place in the quarter-finals for Russia.

Croatia 2 Chile 0

Mario Ancic gave 2005 champion Croatia a 1-0 start in its first-round tie against Chile in Porec. The Split native fired 15 aces and converted four of 15 break point opportunities on 2004 Olympic gold medalist Massu’s serve to secure the first point for the host nation after three hours and one minute.

World No. 30 Ancic made a strong start to his 2009 ATP World Tour campaign and comes into the Davis Cup tie having finished runner-up at Zagreb (l. to Cilic) and reached the semi-finals in Rotterdam (l. to Murray). The 24 year old was instrumental in Croatia’s Davis Cup winning campaign in 2005, defeating the Slovak Republic’s Michael Mertinak in the decisive fifth rubber to win the coveted team trophy for his nation for the first time.

Marin Cilic saved all six break points he faced en route to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 win over Paul Capdeville. The 20-year-old Croat converted seven of 11 break points in the one hour and 33-minute match. Cilic improved to 16-2 on the season and 3-4 in his career in Davis Cup singles matches.

Chile was playing without its top player Fernando Gonzalez, who was sidelined with a back injury.

Argentina 2 Netherlands 0

Juan Monaco gave host and last year's Davis Cup finalists Argentina a 2-0 advantage after defeating Thiemo de Bakker 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(1) in Buenos Aires.

Monaco converted five of 12 break points and saved three of four break points en route to his second career Davis Cup win.

Argentina earned a 1-0 lead over the Netherlands after Juan Ignacio Chela battled past Jesse Huta Galung 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-2 in a first rubber that lasted just four minutes shy of four hours. Chela converted seven of 18 break point chances, while dropping serve three times, and withstood 63 winners from Huta Galung to improve to a 7-5 record in Davis Cup singles play.

Argentina is one of three teams (Romania, India) to have reached the Davis Cup final on more than one occasion and not win the title. The South American team has finished runner-up three times, most recently last year when it lost to Spain in the final.

Spain v Serbia – Suspended

The eagerly anticipated first-round tie between defending champion Spain and Serbia was postponed Friday after storms damaged the Parque Tematico Terra Mitica stadium, where the tie is due to be played. Record strong winds caused damage to some of the upper tiers of the 14,000 capacity temporary stadium. It was announced later in the day that the tie will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with David Ferrer opening against World No. 3 Novak Djokovic, followed by World No. 1 and Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal against Janko Tipsarevic.

The match referee Soeren Friemel, said: “This is not about the wind being too strong for tennis. In tennis terms we could play. It is about safety of spectators and all concerned. The Spanish federation has done a great job in organising the tie, and the players are all happy with the court. These are exceptional weather conditions that could not have been predicted.”

Davis Cup rules allow for play on up to five days, so action on Monday or even Tuesday is theoretically possible.


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