Sweden, Germany take 2-0 leads at Davis Cup
GOTEBORG, Sweden -- Thomas Johansson and Robin Soderling won their opening singles matches Friday to give Sweden a 2-0 lead over 2006 finalist Argentina in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.
Johansson rallied from a set down to edge David Nalbandian 6-7 (3), 7-6 (2), 6-2, 7-6 (0) in the first singles. Soderling beat Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the second match.
Sweden, a seven-time Davis Cup champion, can clinch the best-of-five series by winning Saturday's doubles.
Soderling broke Del Potro for the first time to lead 5-3 in the third set -- the first break in the match.
Del Potro, playing only his second Davis Cup match, saved a match point in the next game before breaking back to make it 5-4.
Soderling wasted another match point when Del Potro trailed 40-30 in the next game after netting a backhand return. But the Swede then hit two straight forehands down the line to end the match.
"Now we have a great chance to win the tie," Soderling said. "Both Thomas and I are playing real well and we have a great doubles team."
Del Potro was picked for the second singles instead of injured Guillermo Canas, who beat top-ranked Roger Federer in his last two ATP tournaments.
Johansson relied on his big first serve to win the fourth-set tiebreaker and end the match after 3 hours, 43 minutes on fast carpet at the Masshallen indoor arena.
The 2002 Australian Open champion served three aces and his last -- his 33rd in the match-- set up match-point.
"I played a great tiebreaker in the fourth set," Johansson said. "I didn't serve well in the first set. I was nervous and passive. You have to play aggressive tennis on this surface."
The win was Johansson's second in three matches against Nalbandian.
"Thomas played a fantastic match," Sweden captain Mats Wilander said. "He did not play well early on. His serve was not working, but it got much better."
After trading early breaks, both players held serve to force a first-set tiebreaker. Nalbandian let a 5-0 lead slip to 5-3, before Johansson double-faulted and hit a forehand long to drop the set.
The second followed a similar pattern, but Nalbandian had a set-point when up 5-4 with Johansson struggling on serve. However, the Argentine netted a forehand and Johansson ultimately held.
Johansson won the tiebreaker after leading 4-0.
One early and one late break gave Johansson the third set. It ended when Nalbandian double-faulted.
Sweden is playing at home for the first time since 2003 after seven consecutive away ties.
Germany vs. Belgium
Germany's Tommy Haas and rookie Philipp Kohlschreiber gave Germany a 2-0 lead against Belgium in their best-of-five series.
Haas rallied to beat Kristof Vliegen 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 to give Germany a 1-0 lead. Kohlschreiber, ranked 60th in the world, then defeated Olivier Rochus 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (4).
Germany can win the best-of-five series in Saturday's doubles.
Haas, ranked 10th in the world, struggled on the slow clay and received some unexpected help when Vliegen hurt his back late in the second set.
Vliegen's injury destroyed his momentum and allowed Haas to dominate with a strong all-court performance.
"I wanted to finish it off and get the first point. You never know what can happen," Haas said.
Rochus, Belgium's top player, was heavily favored to beat Kohlschreiber, who was surprisingly picked over Florian Mayer.
But Kohlschreiber never looked intimidated by Rochus, who was playing his 29th Davis Cup match.
Picking tight angles and moving quickly all over court, he silenced the home crowd and pushed Rochus to frustration with his straight-set win. On paper, Belgium is the easiest opponent among the quarterfinalists and Germany proved it was on Friday.
The winner faces either France or Russia in the semifinals in September.
France vs. Russia
Russia and France were even at 1-1 Friday after the opening singles matches in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.
Paul-Henri Mathieu rallied to beat Nikolay Davydenko 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 7-5, but an ailing Mikhail Youzhny then downed Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-3, 6-7 (8), 5-7, 8-6 in a nearly five-hour marathon to tie the best-of-five series.
At 15-love on Gasquet's serve in the ninth game of the third set, Youzhny slipped on the court and had his thigh and shin massaged during a medical time-out. Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev continued to massage Youzhny at the exchanges throughout the match.
"I really had cramps in the third set but it was much better in the fifth one," Youzhny said.
Gasquet saved three break points in the 13th game of the fifth set and two more match points on Youzhny's serve in the 14th game before the Russian finally converted the seventh match point when Gasquet netted a backhand volley on a deuce.
Davydenko dominated in the first set, but Mathieu soon dragged the Russian into long rallies and trapped him in the corners, leaving the court wide open.
"I tried to change tempo and play short in the fourth set but a couple of mistakes left me no chance," Davydenko said. "I found out that I'm absolutely unprepared for a clay season."
The Russians have not lost to France since 1983, and beat them in the 2002 final for their first Davis Cup title.
Nine-time champion France last won the title in 2001.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
MORE TENNIS HEADLINES
- Djokovic outlasts Wawrinka in 5 to reach final
- Serena ill, cuts practice short on eve of final
- Cilic delays return, to skip Zagreb Indoors
- Murray cruises past Berdych, into Aussie final