MELBOURNE: Wayne Arthurs and Todd Woodbridge ground out an exciting five-set victory over Switzerland's Roger Federer and Marc Rosset to give Australia a 2-1 lead in their Davis Cup semi-final yesterday.
The hosts squeezed home 4-6, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a doubles encounter that lasted three hours and 17 minutes and was described by Australia's non-playing captain John Fitzgerald as “one of the best Davis Cup matches I've ever seen”.
Amazingly it was Wimbledon champion Federer, 22, who cracked first in the fifth set when he served two double-faults before Rosset put a forehand volley into the net on break point and Australia went ahead 4-3. Woodbridge then held serve to love for a 5-3 advantage.
A weary Rosset, who is semi-retired, netted an easy volley in the next game but managed to hold serve to force Arthurs to serve out the match in the 10th game, which he did to loud celebrations on Rod Laver Arena.
“I was trying to maybe erase some memories of last time I was out on this court in 2001,” said Arthurs, who lost the fifth rubber in the 2001 Davis Cup final against France, also at Melbourne Park.
“I just saw the ball really well today. I wanted to really win this match and I wasn't going to lose it and I think it showed out there as well.”
The tie had been level at 1-1 after former world number one Lleyton Hewitt beat Michel Kratochvil 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 and Federer beat Mark Philippoussis in a rematch of their Wimbledon final 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 in Friday's opening singles rubbers.
A nervous Arthurs, one of three 32-year-olds on the court, served two double faults and made two volley errors to hand Switzerland the opening game of the doubles rubber under an open roof at Melbourne Park's Rod Laver Arena.
World number three Federer saved three break points in the 10th game then produced an ace on deuce and another on set point to give Swiss the early advantage.
Rosset and Woodbridge dropped serve in the second and third games of the second set before strong work at the net from Arthurs allowed Woodbridge to save three break points in the 11th game.
“If we lose that game, we are two sets down and it's pretty hard to come back from there,” Woodbridge said later.
Woodbridge held serve before Federer did likewise to force a second-set tiebreak.
Switzerland saved three set points but Rosset pushed a forehand wide on the fourth set point and Australia drew level at one set each.
The match continued to be evenly contested throughout the third set, until Woodbridge was hit on the head by an Arthurs return in the 11th game and lost his composure, dropping his serve in the next game to give the Swiss a 2-1 lead.
Federer dropped his first serve of the match in the fourth game of the fourth set to give Australia the break they needed to level the tie before the tense fifth set gave the home side an important lead heading into today's reverse singles. – Reuters