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Davis Cup: Croatia lead Austria 2-0

Belarus, Russia, France, Argentina and Chile also took command of their series in the World Group.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2006 16:09 IST

Croatia began defense of their Davis Cup title by taking a 2-0 lead over Austria on Friday, appearing to avoid the pitfalls of the last two defending champions.

Belarus, Russia, France, Argentina and Chile also took command of their series as the World Group opened play.

Mario Ancic clinched the opening singles for Croatia in Graz, Austria, overcoming Jurgen Melzer 6-7 (2/7), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 before Ivan Ljubicic defeated Stefan Koubek 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. "I'm glad we are 2-0 up," Ljubicic said. "I'm in very good form, I'm playing very good tennis lately and we will try and finish things off tomorrow in the doubles."

The last two defending champions were eliminated in the first round, Australia in 2004 and Spain last year.

Elsewhere, Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov gave Belarus a 2-0 lead over Spain.

Two-time champion Spain were dominated by Belarus on an indoor carpet court in Minsk. Mirnyi defeated Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-3, and Voltchkov defeated David Ferrer 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. On an indoor carpet in Amsterdam, Russia took a 2-0 lead over the Netherlands. Dmitry Tursunov defeated Raemon Sluiter 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5), and Nikolay Davydenko beat Melle van Gemerden 7-6 (8/6), 7-5, 6-4.

Jose Acasuso made his Davis Cup debut by upsetting Sweden's 13th-ranked Thomas Johansson in 80 minutes, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 on the outdoor clay at Buenos Aires' Parque Roca stadium. The victory put Argentina in control 2-0 after David Nalbandian won the opening singles over Robin Soderling 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.

In Halle, Germany, Richard Gasquet overcame a rowdy crowd and Tommy Haas to give France a sweep of first-day play against Germany. Gasquet beat Haas 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3 after Sebastien Grosjean rolled past Nicolas Kiefer 7-5, 7-6 (9-7), 6-0 in the first-round tie.

The 19-year-old Frenchman's volley into the open court ended the match after three hours, 35 minutes, during which German officials were forced to plead with the spectators to calm down. In Geneva, Australia and Switzerland were level at 1-1. Peter Luczak of Australia defeated Michael Lammer 1-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3, and Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka came back to beat Australian Chris Guccione 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).

In another first-round tie on Friday, Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu prevailed in 30-degree-Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) heat to give Chile a 2-0 lead over Slovakia. Gonzalez served 13 aces and wore down Michal Mertinak in Rancagua, Chile, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 while Massu took nearly four hours before finally overcoming Dominik Hrbaty 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4).

In La Jolla, California, James Blake rallied the United States to a split of the opening singles with Romania.

Andrei Pavel gave Romania the early lead, fighting off a break point before rallying for a 6-7 (2/7), 2-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Andy Roddick, who vomited several times during changeovers. Roddick spent nearly two hours taking fluids intravenously after the match.

However, Blake overcame a 47 percent first-serve percentage to beat Victor Hanescu 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 and even the tie.

First Published: Feb 11, 2006 16:09 IST