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Davis Cupset on the cards as Israel lead Russia 2-0

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:38

Dudi Sela and Harel Levy have given Israel a shock 2-0 lead over Russia in the Davis Cup World Group quarter-finals, to put them a win away from their first ever appearance in the final four.

Sela rallied after dropping the first set to rout Mikhai Youzhny 3-6 6-1 6-0 7-5 in the second singles rubber after Levy had beaten Igor Andreev 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-2 to leave the two-time champions needing all three remaining rubbers to turn the tie around.

That could prove difficult with Israel’s illustrious doubles pair Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich taking on Marat Safin – playing his final Davis Cup before retiring at the end of the year – and Igor Kunitsyn.

Russia have won the Davis Cup twice (2002 and 2007) and made it to the semifinals in each of the past five years. Israel have only reached the quarter-finals once before, losing to India in 1987.

Defending champions Spain are tied 1-1 with Germany after Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Tommy Robredo 6-3 6-4 6-4.

Spain had led after Fernando Verdasco beat Andreas Beck 6-0 3-6 6-7(4) 6-2 6-1 in the first singles match before Kohlschreiber converted three of his five break points to beat Robredo, who failed to convert his only two chances.

Verdasco, who will be playing three matches in the absence of Rafael Nadal, will return tomorrow with Feliciano Lopez for Saturday’s doubles to face Nicolas Kiefer and Mischa Zverev. Robredo is deputising for David Ferrer, who withdrew with a muscle strain.

In Porec, Croatia, Americans Mardy Fish and James Blake both went down in marathon encounters against the nation they have never beaten in Davis Cup competition.

Blake let a two-set lead slip through his fingers against Ivo Karlovic 6-7(5) 4-6 6-3 7-6(3) 7-5 to put USA a rubber down. Like Monaco, Karlovic made a nervous start in front of a boisterous home crowd on a sub-par clay court that needed to be repaired after the match.

Blake got a huge slice of luck to seal the first set when a scrambled pick-up that would have flown long clipped the net cord and looped past the Croatian at the net.

But Karlovic produced a superb volleying performance as the surface negated the impact of his serve to win his first ever five-set match in three hours 38 minutes.

Marin Cilic and Mardy Fish topped that time, playing out a four-hour-23-minute epic on the indoor red clay of the Zatika Sports Hall.

Fish won two of the first three sets, but Cilic pulled out a 4-6 6-3 6-7(3) 6-1 8-6 victory as Croatia put itself in position to once more thwart the Americans.

Tomas Berdych needed five sets to beat Argentina’s Juan Monaco 6-4 2-6 2-6 6-3 6-2 and put the Czech Republic up a rubber in Ostrava before Juan Martin del Potro thrashed Ivo Minar 6-1 6-3 6-3 to level the tie.

World No.62 Monaco, deputising for the injured David Nalbandian, made a nervy start before fighting back as Berdych went off the boil with a glut of unforced errors and double faults.

The world No.20 took a comfort break and returned a different player, rediscovering his serve and beating Monaco easily in the last two sets.

“The beginning was not ideal, but that’s tennis. It’s three sets and the game can take a new turn any time,” Berdych told Czech television. “It was mainly about serving. I was bad on first serves and when I don’t have the pressure, I struggle. But then it changed.”

In contrast, del Potro needed just 100 minutes to subdue world No.64 Minar. “We could see why he’s the No.5. He has a great first serve and doesn’t make many mistakes,” Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil said.

Minar replaced the injured Radek Stepanek for the singles, but the Czech No.2’s knee injury has improved enough for him to play Saturday’s doubles.

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