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India hold champions Serbia, Nadal inspires Spain

India held defending champions Serbia in check while a Rafael Nadal-inspired Spain, France and Argentina all held sway on the opening day of Davis Cup World Group first round ties on Friday.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Paris
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2011 07:28 AM IST

India held defending champions Serbia in check while a Rafael Nadal-inspired Spain, France and Argentina all held sway on the opening day of Davis Cup World Group first round ties on Friday.

Serbia, without their top player, Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, have plenty of work to do in Novi Sad to avoid a shock early exit.

Viktor Troicki, who sealed his country's victory against France in December's 2010 final in Belgrade, put the Serbs into the lead, edging Rohan Bopanna in a cliffhanger 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3.

But India go into Saturday's doubles level at 1-1 after Somdev Devvarman stunned Janko Tipsarevic 7-5, 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) in the second singles.

It was Devvarman's first win in his third encounter with Tipsarevic, who looked a pale shadow of the player that reached the Delray Beach final in Florida last weekend.

"I feel for Janko because he probably didn't have enough time to adjust from Delray Beach, where it was a lot warmer and that much easier to serve," Devvarman said.

"I served well, kept fighting and always believed I could win the match," he added.

Serbia will be represented by their strongest pairing of Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic in Saturday's doubles where they come up against Bopanna and Devvarman after India's Grand Slam-winners Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were forced to withdraw due to injuries.

But Devvarman was confident his team still had a chance to defeat the Serbs.

"We definitely believe now we can win this tie and we will go out there to give it our best shot," he said.

Last year's runners-up France were firmly in control of their tie, racing to a 2-0 lead over Austria.

Jeremy Chardy proved he was far from a makeweight in an injury depleted team as he blasted to a 7-5, 6-4, 7-5 win over Jurgen Melzer inside a converted aircraft hangar at Vienna airport.

"I had to stop him playing," said the 24-year-old Frenchman, "and I played one of the best matches of my life."

Chardy, who had failed to win a set in his two previous meetings with Austria's top rated Melzer, was in the team after Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet had all pulled out through injury.

"It wasn't the start we had imagined," admitted Melzer.

Gilles Simon then tightened France's grip on the tie with a 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Stefan Koubek.

At Charleroi Nadal and Fernando Verdasco both won in straight sets to put Spain 2-0 up against Belgium.

Nadal beat Ruben Bemelmans 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, with Verdasco earlier downing Belgium's top player Xavier Malisse 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

Spain are seeking a third Davis Cup win in four years after 2008 and 2009 and have been boosted by world number one Nadal's decision to play.

Argentina's David Nalbandian was crying tears of pain as he battled with a hernia in his 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 defeat of Romania's Adrian Ungur in Buenos Aires.

Nalbandian admitted if he hadn't been playing for his country he would have thrown in the towel.

"I can't walk a single step," he said.

"I thought I would be in better shape, but I have felt really bad since the first set. I only managed to finish the match because this is Davis Cup.

"If it was a tournament from the tour, I would have retired in the second set. But here, I play for my country, with my people supporting me and that is a great motivation," he explained.

Argentina ended the first day 2-0 up after Juan Monaco's four set victory over Victor Hanescu.

Over in Santiago, the United States' Andy Roddick defeated Chile's Nicolas Massu 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The US team, now skippered by four time grand slam winner Jim Courier, then suffered a major jolt when Chile's Paul Capdeville pulled off arguably the biggest win of his career, coming back from two sets down to beat John Isner 6-7 (5/7) 6-7 (2/7) 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (7/5) 6-4.

This was some performance from a player ranked 133 places below the American in the rankings.

In other ties Sweden were looking good winning both of their opening singles against Russia, while it was all square between Croatia and Germany in Zagreb and the Czech Republic and Kazakhstan.

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