Croatia Stuns U.S. as Ljubicic Beats RoddickPosted on March 7, 2005
Croatia handed the United States its first ever loss in the opening round of the Davis Cup World Group on home soil after Ivan Ljubicic defeated World No. 3 Andy Roddick in a five-set thriller in Carson, California. The in-form Ljubicic, who is an ATP-best 22-6 this season after reaching four finals, fought off cramps late in the match to record a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(11), 6-7(7), 6-2 victory over Roddick in just under four hours, giving Croatia an unassailable 3-1 lead on the final day.
It capped a remarkable weekend for Ljubicic, who gave Andre Agassi an unpleasant return to Davis Cup action after a five-year absence in the opening rubber before teaming up with Mario Ancic to end Bob and Mike Bryan's 100 percent Davis Cup record in the doubles. That victory gave the Croatians a 2-1 lead going into the final day before Ljubicic stunned Roddick. His victory ended a five-match losing streak against Roddick.
Croatia now will host Romania in the quarterfinals after Andrei Pavel and Victor Hanescu overturned a 2-1 deficit to defeat Belarus 3-2 on the final day. Pavel recorded a four-set victory over Max Mirnyi while Hanescu overcame Vladimir Voltchkov 7-6(2), 6-4, 7-6(6).
Elsewhere in Davis Cup first round action, defending champion Spain also crashed out at the first hurdle after suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava. Spain also lost in the first round in 2001 following its only previous Davis Cup triumph in 2000.
Karol Beck, Dominik Hrbaty were the heroes for the Slovak Republic, who opened up an unassailable 3-0 lead with singles victories over Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco respectively, before Beck teamed up with and Michal Mertinak to defeat Albert Costa and Rafael Nadal in the doubles. Miloslav Mecir's Slovak Republic team is through to the quarterfinals for the third time in its 12-year history and now will meet The Netherlands after Sjeng Schalken booked his country's place in the last eight after gaining the crucial third point against Switzerland.
With The Netherlands leading 2-0 in Fribourg after the first day, George Bastl and Yves Allegro gave the Swiss hope with victory in the doubles. However, Schalken held his nerve to win the decisive fourth rubber against Stansilav Warwrinka, coming through 9-7 in the fifth set after saving four match points and coming back from 4-1 and a double break down in the final set.
Meanwhile, Australia set up an intriguing quarterfinal clash at home against Argentina after both completed whitewash victories in the first round. Lleyton Hewitt and recent Scottsdale champion Wayne Arthurs made sure Australia made the perfect start against Austria with a 2-0 lead after the first day before Arthurs joined Todd Woodbridge to defeat Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer in five sets. Woodbridge and Chris Guccione completed the rout for the Australians in the dead rubbers.
Argentina's strong line-up paid dividends against the Czech Republic, with David Nalbandian defeating Jiri Novak in four sets and Guillermo Coria overcoming Tomas Berdych to open up a 2-0 lead in Buenos Aires. Nalbandian then joined Guillermo Canas to ensure victory for the Argentines with a four-set win over Jan Hernych and Tomas Zib in the doubles.
In the bottom half of the Davis Cup draw, Australian Open champion Marat Safin sealed victory for Russia against Chile after a thrilling five-set win against Fernando Gonzalez in the fourth rubber. The Russians went into the final day with a 2-1 lead at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow before Safin held off a remarkable comeback by Gonzalez to complete a 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-7(3), 6-4 victory in 3 hours, 36 minutes.
Russia now will meet France in the quarterfinals after Paul-Henri Mathieu became the hero with a fifth rubber victory over former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson to complete a 3-2 win against Sweden. Mathieu defeated Joachim Johansson in straight sets in the opening match before Thomas Johansson leveled matters with a victory over Sebastien Grosjean. Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra defeated Jonas Bjorkman and Simon Aspelin in the doubles, before Joachim Johansson set up an exciting finish with a four-set win over Grosjean.