Guccione, Hewitt give Aussies 2-0 lead on Belarus

Updated: April 7, 2006, 2:44 AM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Davis Cup rookie Chris Guccione and veteran Lleyton Hewitt took contrasting routes Friday to give Australia a 2-0 lead over Belarus in their quarterfinals matchup.

Guccione beat Belarus' No. 1 player Max Mirnyi in a five-setter that lasted nearly four hours, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.

Hewitt, playing for the first time at Kooyong, the former home of the Australian Open, beat Vladimir Voltchkov 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in swirling, cold winds that bothered all four players during both matches.

"It was pretty tough conditions out there," Hewitt said. "I just tried to stay mentally tough and hang in."

If Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley beat Voltchkov and Mirnyi in Saturday's doubles, Australia will move on to face the winner of the weekend's quarterfinal between defending champion Croatia and Argentina.

The reverse singles are scheduled for Sunday.

The upset of the day belonged to the 20-year-old Guccione, playing in his first full season for Australia. He clinched Australia's first-round win in February over Switzerland at Geneva, winning the fifth match of the weekend.

"This is definitely my biggest win, in front of a home crowd, with all my family and friends here," Guccione said Friday. "I was still very nervous, but I couldn't be happier with the way I played."

There were no breaks in the opening set and Guccione recovered from 4-1 down in the tiebreaker to take the set in 51 minutes.

Guccione had a mental lapse to drop his opening service game of the second set and was broken for a second time as Mirnyi leveled the match at a set each.

The two traded early services breaks in the fifth set before Guccione prevailed after 3 hours, 41 minutes when Mirnyi lost his serve for a second time in the set, netting a volley on match point.

"There was just no telling what the wind was going to do," said Guccione. "It was going every which way. I just had to stay focused and adjust to it."

Mirnyi said Guccione served better in the match.

"He is capable of playing top-level tennis and he showed that today," said Mirnyi. "Isn't that what Davis Cup is all about? You guys are so happy, we are a little bit disappointed. Chris Guccione is the new hero."

The 25-year-old Hewitt improved his Davis Cup record to 31-8, including 28 singles victories, the most by any Australian.

He said he was pleased his first match at Kooyong was successful. No Davis Cup match has been played at Kooyong since 1993.

"I'm told I'm the only No. 1 or former No. 1 in 50 years to have not played at Kooyong, so I'm glad I made my first match a good one," said Hewitt.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press