BRATISLAVA: Slovakia ended Spain's Davis Cup reign yesterday, winning the doubles match in their World Group first round tie to take an unassailable 3-0 lead.
Just three months after beating the United States to win the cup for the second time, the depletad Spanish Armada was sunk by a fast surface and a pesky Slovak team that launched an all-out attack at their opponents.
Elsewhere, Former winners Australia are also through to the quarter-finals are, who took an unbeatable 3-0 lead over Austria, while world number one Roger Federer's decision to skip the first round weighed heavily on Switzerland as they went behind 2-1 to Holland.
Argentina were leading Czech Republic 2-0 and Russia were ahead of Chile 2-1. France and Sweden and the United States and Croatia were locked at 1-1 while Belarus led Romania 2-1.
Spain were without the powerful Carlos Moya, who left the Davis Cup behind to concentrate on Grand Slams this year, while other leading Spaniards Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo were out due to injury.
Nonetheless, they started as clear favourites having reached the final three times in the past five years, winning the title twice while Slovakia had only made it back to the World Group two years ago and has never made it past the quarter-finals.
Karol Beck and Michal Mertinak clinched the heroic upset with a tight 7-6, 6-4, 7-6 win over Rafael Nadal and Alberto Costa after Dominik Hrbaty and Beck had put the upstart Slovaks 2-0 ahead in the opening singles on Friday.
“The Spaniards fought hard, it's rare to see resistance that is so tough,” Slovak captain Miroslav Mecir said. “I have always said that Rafael Nadal is a great player and a personality that does not give up, and this makes our victory even more precious.”
In SYDNEY, Australia clinched their Davis Cup World Group first round tie when Todd Woodbridge and Wayne Arthurs beat Austrians Jurgen Melzer and Julian Knowle 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the doubles yesterday for an unbeatable 3-0 lead.
The Australians fought back to score a gritty win in a rain-interrupted match after Melzer and Knowle had looked likely to keep the tie alive going into today's reverse singles.
Hosts Australia, 28 times Davis Cup champions, dominated the opening singles on Friday but the Austrians put up a sterner fight in the doubles and took a well-earned two-sets-to-one lead against the hugely experienced pairing of Woodbridge and Arthurs.
In MOSCOW, Marat Safin and Mikhail Ykuzhny teamed up to give Russia a 2-1 lead over Chile in their first round tie yesterday.
The duo combined to defeat Adrian Garcia and Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in the doubles in 90 minutes.
“We were playing hard from the start ... to finish it off as soon as possible,” Safin told a post-match news conference.
Initially, Garcia and Gonzalez were to face Igor Andreev and Nikolay Davydenko in Saturday's doubles. However, captain Shamil Tarpishchev changed his lineup after Friday's singles matches which were split.
On Friday Youzhny lost to Gonzalez 7-6, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 while Safin beat Garcia 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6.
In LOS ANGELES, the United States, who finished runner-up to Spain last year, were rocked by an opening-match defeat for onetime Davis Cup superstar Andre Agassi, whose return to Davis Cup after a five-year absence was spoiled by Ivan Ljubicic.
Ljubicic, one of the hottest players on the ATP tour this year with four finals appearances, defeated the eight-time Grand Slam champion 6-3, 7-6 (7-0), 6-3.
World number three Andy Roddick then provided a tense moment as he dropped the first set before emerging with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Mario Ancic. – Reuters