Davis Cup Powers Spain, Sweden, Germany, Slovaks Blanked 3-0

Posted on February 12, 2006

After Day 2 of the first round of the 2006 Davis Cup World Group, former powerhouses Spain, Germany, Sweden and the defending runner-up Slovaks, along with the struggling Austrians and Dutchmen have been blanked 3-0 and face relegation play in September to stay in the World Group.

Into the quarterfinals are Argentina which will play at Croatia in April, Belarus which will face the Australia/Switzerland winner, Russia which will travel to France, and Chile which will face the USA/Romania winner, with Andy Roddick looking to clinch for the Americans in the first match on Sunday.

Here are the nation-by-nation results after the Saturday doubles play for the first round of the 2006 Davis Cup:

Argentina d. Sweden 3-0
David Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri completed the home claycourt sweep over unhappy Swedes Simon Aspelin and Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4 Sunday to advance to an April quarterfinal meeting at Croatia.

"This result doesn't come as a surprise," said Swedish captain Mats Wilander. "It could have gone any way. The next match [for Argentina] against Croatia will be very difficult because it will be played on a quick surface in Croatia."

Croatia d. Austria 3-0
The Austrian red clay did not confront the defending-champ Croatians this weekend, with Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic outlasting Jurgen Melzer and Julian Knowle 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 8-6 for a clean sweep into the April quarterfinals.

For the defeated Melzer it was the second two-set-to-love lead wasted in two days.

"It's tough to swallow," Melzer said. "It was the most disappointing Davis Cup weekend in my career. Twice, twice I was up two sets to love...Got to hold the head high, what does not kill you, can only make you stronger."

Austrian captain Thomas Muster didn't mince words in his assessment of the winless two days.

"Mistakes? If I had to do it all over again, I would choose the same team," Muster said. "But I'm disappointed with the performance of Stefan Koubek."

The Croatians next return home to host Argentina in April.

Belarus d. Spain 3-0
The 2004 champion Spaniards are ousted in the first round for the second consecutive year as Max "The Beast" Mirnyi and Vladimir "The Vladiator" Voltchkov again show they are unbeatable at home, straight-setting Spaniards Feliciano "F-Lo" Lopez and Fernando "Hot Sauce" Verdasco 7-6(2), 6-4, 7-5 to clinch the tie in the Saturday doubles.

The Spaniards hope to have Rafael Nadal and Juan Carlos Ferrero back in contention when they try to stay alive in the World Group Qualifying round in September.

"It's incredibly important to remember that Mirnyi and Voltchkov played on their home surface," explained Spanish captain Emilio Sanchez in his not-so-sparkling debut. "Another thing they had as an advantage was invaluable experience of taking part in Davis Cup. For example both Verdasco and Lopez are young players who played their first rubber together today."

Meanwhile Belarus awaits the winner of Switzerland and Australia in the quarterfinals.

Australia lead Switzerland 2-1
Doubles specialists Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley put the Aussie squad up 2-1 in their tie against the home-court Swiss Saturday, avoiding a fifth and deciding set with a narrow 7-6(6), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5) win over Yves Allegro and Stan Wawrinka on the red clay.

The deflated Swiss led 5-2 in the fourth-set breaker before folding to the formidable Aussies, with Allegro breaking down emotionally courtside after the match.

Both teams' top players are missing this tie amidst squabbling with their respective national tennis federations -- world No. 1 Roger Federer saying he needs a rest, and Lleyton Hewitt saying his foot is still injured, though the Aussie is scheduled to play the ATP stop in San Jose in a few days.

Wawrinka was a last-minute replacement in the doubles for George Bastl on the Swiss side. Now the Swiss must win two on Sunday to advance, with Wawrinka scheduled to face Aussie Peter Luczak, and Swiss Michael "The Whammer" Lammer against Chris "Penthouse" Guccione of Australia.

Russia d. Netherlands 3-0
Russia completed the Dutch sweep Saturday in Amsterdam, with Mikhail Youzhny and Igor Andreev wearing down Dutchmen John van Lottum and Raemon Sluiter 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to move into the quarterfinals.

The Russian tandem were fresh after being left out of the singles on Friday.

"I played without pain today, which is nice for a change," said Youzhny, coming off injuries from late 2005. "And the level today was good, but I can't read too much into that. This is doubles and doubles is easy because you have only half a court to cover. I want to get back to the Top 20, but everyone tells me to take time to recover my usual level. Otherwise I may hurt my back again."

The Dutch were without former Top 20 player Sjeng Schalken who is getting ready to return to tour play after injury and illness, and former Roland Garros runner-up Martin Verkerk who has been out a year after shoulder surgery.

The Russians will travel to France for the quarterfinals the weekend of April 7.

France d. Germany 3-0
The French completed a shockingly-easy three-match sweep on German soil Saturday, with Frenchmen Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra beating Tommy Haas and Alexander Waske from a set down 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to advance to a home quarterfinal meeting with Russia.

At one-set all, the Germans led 4-3 before losing six straight games in a row, deflating their chances for a comeback and ending the contest by losing nine of the last 10 games.

Germany has not defeated France in Davis Cup play since 1938.

USA leads Romania 2-1
After Friday's fireworks with Andy Roddick getting sick and losing his singles due to nerves, and James Blake doing the heavy lifting to even the tie, Saturday's doubles in the USA vs. Romania tie left U.S. fans feeling flat, even though their team takes a 2-1 lead into Sunday play.

"This was about nerves and the occasion, which is why Davis Cup is so great," said commentator John McEnroe on the Roddick loss and the U.S. entering Saturday in a 1-1 deadlock.

On Saturday the Bryan brothers put the U.S. within one win of the quarterfinals when Romanian opponents Victor Hanescu and last-minute replacement for Andrei Pavel, Horia Tecau, retired after one set. After the loss of the first set 6-2, Hanescu alerted the chair umpire that he was finished, suffering pain from a left rib injury.

"I had a very sharp pain," said Hanescu, who had a planned trip to the hospital for an MRI scan. "At the beginning I thought it was something easier but it was very painful."

The Bryan brothers are now 7-1 in Davis Cup play, with their only loss last year to the championship-winning Croatian team of Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic.

"It was an unfortunate way for the match to end, but we'll take the win," U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said. "We look forward to seeing Andy back on the court tomorrow and we hope to close it out."

With Hanescu's injury, Romanian Davis Cup captain Florin Segarceanu will likely have to decide on a replacement to open against Roddick on Sunday, possibly going with No. 100+ ranked Razvan Sabau.

"We have to see how [Hanescu] feels tomorrow morning when he wakes up, but at this point it doesn't seem to be too many chances he will play," Segarceanu said. "At this moment, I'm hoping, I'm praying, he gets better tomorrow."

Chile d. Slovak Republic 3-0
Olympic gold medal doubles winners Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu completed the claycourt sweep Saturday in the doubles versus the 2005 runner-up Slovaks, defeating Lukas Lacko and Michal Mertinak 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals and a likely away match against the U.S.

The Slovak's lack of depth was apparent Saturday when No. 1 player Dominik Hrbaty was replaced in the doubles by Lacko, ranked No. 356 in singles and No. 1649 in doubles on the ATP Rankings. Hrbaty complained of pain in his hand in the Friday loss to Massu.