Sun, Sep 26, 2004 - Page 22 News List

Roddick and Fish stretch the US' lead

DAVIS CUP Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish gave the US a 2-0 lead over Belarus, while Paul-Henri Mathieu upset No. 7 Carlos Moya to put France ahead of Spain by 1-0

AP , NEW YORK

The US won both of its opening singles to move within a victory of its first appearance in the Davis Cup final since 1997, while Spain stumbled Friday in trying to reach its third trip to the championship in five years.

Andy Roddick won in straight sets and Mardy Fish took only a little longer to give the Americans a 2-0 lead over Belarus, while Paul-Henri Mathieu, ranked 77th by the ATP, upset No. 6 Carlos Moya to put France ahead of Spain 1-0 on the first day of the semifinals in tennis' premier team competition.

In Charleston, South Carolina, Roddick got the US out to a fast start, pounding a record 249kph serve in his 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Vladimir Voltchkov while Fish consolidated the lead with a 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Max Mirnyi.

In Alicante, Spain, Mathieu shocked Moya 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to put France ahead, and 12th-ranked Juan Carlos Ferrero tried to rally Spain, leading Fabrice Santoro, 6-3, 6-1, 1-6, 3-3 before darkness suspended the rest of the match until Saturday.

The winners of the weekend semifinals will meet Dec. 3-5 in the championship tie.

The US has won the most Davis Cup titles, 31, but none since 1995.

Besides the semifinals, eight playoff matches were determining the final half of next year's World Group.

Australia, Chile, Croatia, Romania and Russia all took 2-0 leads after the opening day, while Slovakia and Germany split their opening matches and Austria and Britain were rained out.

Paraguay and the Czech Republic also were playing in Lambare, Paraguay.

In Charleston, Roddick's serve in the final game of the match eclipsed his own record of 246kph set at the Queen's Club tournament in England in June. Even with the record speed, Voltchkov managed to get his racket on the ball but was unable to return it.

The crowd at the Family Circle Tennis Center stood and cheered when the record speed of the serve was shown.

"I hit a good one. That's about it," Roddick said. "I think it's fun for the fans. To me it's still a point. It's something I'll be able to tell people about one day. But I'm happier with the win -- serving well overall."

In Spain, Mathieu needed 4 1-2 hours for his first victory in Davis Cup to give France the lead. The match went back-and-forth. Mathieu won the final three games of the first set and broke Moya to open the second. Moya then took control to win the second and third sets, but committed several unforced errors to let Mathieu stay close.

Mathieu opened the fourth by breaking Moya's serve, and again in the sixth to even the match. Moya broke Mathieu to lead 2-0 in the final set and had game point to take a 3-0 lead, but Mathieu rallied, earning four break points before finally converting and going on to win five of the next six games.

"The opponent plays well, too," Moya said. "And I think he played a great game ... It was a match of ups and downs and in the end I was a little tired."

In Perth, Wayne Arthurs and Todd Woodbridge ensured Australia remains in the Davis Cup World Group for 2005, beating Morocco's Mehdi Tahiri and Mounir El Aarej 7-6 (7), 7-6 (2), 6-3 yesterday to take an unassailable 3-0 playoffs lead.

On Friday, Lleyton Hewitt broke a 56-year-old Australian Davis Cup record to help to give the home side a 2-0 lead over the injury-depleted Moroccans in the World Group qualifier.

Hewitt's 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 win over Tahiri on grass at Royal Kings Park was his 25th Davis Cup singles win, an Australian record in just his sixth year of Davis Cup play.

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