Tue, Jul 13, 2010 - Page 18 News List

Serbia, Argentina make the semis

AP , LONDON

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after beating Marin Cilic of Croatia during their Davis Cup quarter-final in Split, Croatia, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Argentina and Serbia wrapped up quarter-final victories on the road in the Davis Cup on Sunday to join France and the Czech Republic in the tournament’s last four.

David Nalbandian beat Mikhail Youzhny 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-3 in the deciding match in Moscow to clinch Argentina a 3-2 win over Russia, who lost at home for the first time since 1996.

In Split, the second-ranked Novak Djokovic defeated Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in front of a fiery Croatian crowd to give Serbia an unassailable 3-1 lead over their neighbors. Janko Tipsarevic then beat Antonio Veic 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) to rubber-stamp the victory and seal Serbia’s progression into their first Davis Cup semi-final, where they will host the Czech Republic in September.

The other semi-final will see Argentina travel to France, who secured a 5-0 whitewash over defending champions Spain.

“This is probably the sweetest victory in my career because this is not just an individual win, but a victory for my country,” Djokovic said.

Serbia had taken a 2-1 lead thanks to their doubles victory on Saturday and Djokovic had ethnic insults hurled at him during his match, which lasted 2 hours, 24 minutes before he finished Cilic off with a drop-shot winner.

“Serbia is writing history by reaching the semi-finals,” Djokovic said. “Beating Croatia in this kind of heated atmosphere is really something big.”

Argentina’s win ended Russia’s 17-tie winning streak at home since losing to the US in the 1995 final. Pete Sampras won all three of his matches on that occasion.

In the absence of the injured Juan Martin Del Potro — the US Open champion and the country’s No. 1 player — Nalbandian was Argentina’s inspiration.

Nalbandian missed much of last season because of injury and has been sidelined with a hamstring problem since April, forcing him to drop out of the top 100, but the 28-year-old showed no signs of rustiness as he swept aside No. 6-ranked Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets in Friday’s opening match and did the same to Youzhny two days later.

“I’m happy with my playing here, but I’m not surprised at all, though I had no official match practice since April,” Nalbandian said. “I know my level and I did my best to prepare for these matches.”

Earlier, Davydenko had beaten Eduardo Schwank 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 to keep Russia’s hopes alive, but the hosts — missing big-serving players Igor Andreev and Dmitry Tursunov — came up short.

“Our roster is much shorter than Argentina’s,” said Shamil Tarpischev, who captained Russia in his 74th Davis Cup tie, equaling Australia captain Neale Fraser’s record. “I called up all our best players. I’m sure the other players could hardly have added strength to our performance this weekend.”

Argentina have reached the final three times, but they have yet to win a title.

France held an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Spain coming into the reverse singles and they clinched the clean sweep thanks to Gilles Simon’s 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (9/7) victory over Nicolas Almagro and Julien Benneteau’s 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 defeat of Feliciano Lopez.

The French, who have won the Davis Cup nine times, dealt Spain their first 5-0 Davis Cup loss since 1957 when the team was thrashed by South Africa.

Chile won one of the reverse singles matches to save some face in a 4-1 loss to the Czech Republic.

The Czechs had secured victory on Saturday, surging to a 3-0 lead.

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