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U.S. falls behind on opening day

12/3/2004

SEVILLE, Spain -- With drums pounding and a brass band
playing, Andy Roddick and his U.S. teammates were reduced to
silence Friday in the Davis Cup final.

The Americans lost the opening two singles matches, falling into
a big hole while Spain moved into commanding position to win the
title for the second time.

Rafael Nadal defeated the second-ranked Roddick 6-7 (6), 6-2,
7-6 (6), 6-2 after Carlos Moya opened by beating Mardy Fish 6-4,
6-2, 6-3.

"It was crazy," Roddick said. "It was unlike anything I've
experienced before."

Fish, an inexperienced clay-court player, likened the atmosphere
to a college football game.

"This was definitely the closest thing to it that we have in
tennis, I'm sure of that," he said.

Spain, whose lone title came at home in 2000 over Australia,
needs one more victory in the best-of-five series. The Americans
have won the Davis Cup a record 31 times, but have not captured the
premier team event in men's tennis since Pete Sampras led a 1995
victory.

Only one team in Davis Cup history has come back from a 2-0
deficit to win the championship -- Australia in 1939 over the United
States. Only six teams in Davis Cup history have ever won after trailing 2-0,
with Russia the last to do so two years ago over France. The United States did it in 1902.

"We know our backs are against the wall," U.S. captain Patrick
McEnroe said. "There's no big mystery of what we need to do."

Spain can clinch the Davis Cup on Saturday if Nadal and Tommy
Robredo beat twins Bob and Mike Bryan in doubles. The brothers are
4-0 in Davis Cup play and have not lost a set.

Nadal was sensational on the slow, red clay. He combined power
on his sweeping left-handed groundstrokes with touch on repeated
drop shots, prompting Roddick to applaud with his racket.

"I had cramps at one point but I got through it," Nadal said.

Asked if he were ready to play Sunday, he replied: "Right now,
I'm not. I'm really beat. But I think I'll be ready."

Attendance was 27,200, a record for a sanctioned tennis match.
The old mark was set in 1954 in Sydney, Australia, when 25,578
watched the United States defeat Australia in the Davis Cup final.

The crowd was a blanket of red and yellow. Just off courtside
was a 10-piece brass band named "The Spanish Armada." Fans wore
overcoats and some sat under umbrellas. The court is under cover
but fringe areas are exposed to open air. The band, however,
provided the heat.

Nadal, 18, became the second-youngest player to win a singles
match in a Davis Cup final -- Boris Becker was slightly younger.
Nadal paid tribute to the crowd, which made a tennis match seem
like a Real Madrid soccer game.

"This has certainly been the match of my life," Nadal said.
"I think 50 percent of the victory is because of the fans."

Nadal missed three months this season with a stress fracture.
This was his third key win in Davis Cup, adding to clutch
performances against the Czech Republic and France. The
lowest-ranked Spaniard at No. 51, he was named to play Thursday in
place of injured former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero.

"I ran into someone who played too well," Roddick said.
"Every once in a while people come along who are big match
players. He is a big match player. ... I couldn't have tried any
harder."

This was the second meeting between the two. In the second round
of the U.S. Open three months ago, Roddick won 6-0, 6-3, 6-4.

A critical moment came in the third-set tiebreaker. Roddick
saved eight break points in the set and was leading 6-5 in the
tiebreaker, a point from leading two sets to one. Facing an open
court and a few feet from the net, his overhand went into the net.
Nadal won the tiebreaker and the 85-minute set.

"That was going to swing the momentum either way -- and fast,"
Roddick said. "That was big."

In the first match, Moya fell behind 3-0 in the first set but
came back and broke Fish twice to take the set. Moya broke Fish
again to open second set, setting the tone as he swept through the
match in straight sets.

"At first, the ball from Fish was bouncing higher than I
expected, because of his power and top spin," Moya said. "But
once I got used to it, I was able to handle his game."

Fish, who had played only one match on clay before Friday,
employed all sorts of tactics but to no avail.

"I tried serving and volleying, I'd tried coming in on a lot of
balls, I tried to stay back and he had answers," he said. "I had
some chances and he served a few of those chances away. You have to
tip your hat to him."