Mon, Apr 09, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Spain blow shot at making semis


Defending champions Spain blew a chance to reach the Davis Cup semi-finals when they lost the doubles to Austria on Saturday, while the Czech Republic and Serbia continued to fall out over handshakes.

Austria’s second-time pair Alexander Peya and Oliver Marach took advantage of a rain delay in Castellon, Spain, to regather and overcome Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (14/12) to cut Spain’s lead to 2-1.

That was the same score in the other quarter-finals after two days.

Granollers and Lopez suggested they would romp home the way they won the first set, but a half-hour break for rain woke up Peya and Marach, who won Austria’s first set of the tie to level the score. Even after another shower at 3-3 in the fourth, the players maintained a high standard and Austria prevailed.

“We didn’t want to lose the tie and go home after the second day,” Marach said. “After the rain break we played more aggressively and it worked.”

Spain should still advance to a semi against the US or France. Spain were expecting to win an 18th successive singles in the past year when world No. 5 David Ferrer, undefeated on clay in his six-year Davis Cup career, met Jurgen Melzer in the first reverse singles yesterday.

The Czech Republic will also favor themselves, but they have already left Serbia feeling bitter.

In Prague, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek improved their Davis Cup doubles record to 10-1 in easing past Serbia duo Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), but Bozoljac refused to shake Stepanek’s hand afterward.

On Friday, Stepanek was accused of giving the middle finger and swearing at Janko Tipsarevic after the latter won their five-hour five-set singles to level the quarter-final at 1-1.

“I was afraid that he was going to give me the middle finger like he did yesterday to Janko,” Bozoljac said. “I was just protecting myself from the middle finger.”

Stepanek said Bozoljac’s decision “shows his weakness.”

Zimonjic, a three-time Grand Slam doubles winner, said he was not surprised by the accusation against Stepanek.

“I’ve been on the tour for quite a while and played many times against Stepanek so he did something that you can expect to him. I think he’s the least likable guy on the tour, especially on the court,” he said. “I was really shocked.”

David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank beat Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 8-6 in five hours in Bueno Aires to give Argentina the lead for the first time.

However, Argentina will be hoping to save Nalbandian from further stress and were counting on Juan Martin del Potro clinching the tie in the first reverse singles yesterday, when he played Marin Cilic. Del Potro leads their matchup 4-2, including a win last month in Miami.

The US took a predictable lead in their quarter-final with France when top-ranked pair Bob and Mike Bryan, unbeaten in the Davis Cup since 2008, swatted away Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) at Monte Carlo Country Club in Roquebrune, France.

That left the US with high hopes of winning in France for the first time since the 1982 final.

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