Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spain pinned back, Stepanek row rumbles on

Updated April 08, 2012 09:26:44

Spain's Davis Cup juggernaut collided with an unexpected Austrian roadblock on Saturday while the Czech Republic and Serbia took their bitter quarter-final feud onto Twitter.

Austria kept alive its slim hopes of reaching a first semi-final since 1990 when Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya captured the doubles against holders Spain in Castellon.

The Austrian duo defeated Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (14/12), clinching victory on their fifth match point.

"It was very important for us to win today as after being 2-0 down we didn't want to lose the tie and go home already after the second day," said Marach.

"After the rain break (early in the second set) we decided to play different tactics which was good for us, we played more aggressively and it worked."

Five-time champions Spain, playing without the injured Rafael Nadal, had cruised into a 2-0 overnight lead on Friday when Nicolas Almagro beat Jurgen Melzer 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 and David Ferrer brushed aside Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.

The tie will be settled on Sunday when Melzer takes on Ferrer while Almagro faces Haider-Maurer in the reverse singles.

Victory in the tie would extend Spain's winning record at home to 23 matches, a run stretching back to 1999 when they lost to Brazil.

In Prague, the Czech Republic took a 2-1 lead over Serbia, who is without world number one Novak Djokovic, after Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych breezed past Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4).

On Friday, Berdych swept Viktor Troicki 6-2, 6-1, 6-2, while Stepanek lost a stormy epic five-setter to Janko Tipsarevic 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 9-7.

That clash was overshadowed by an angry bust-up after Tipsarevic accused the Czech veteran of refusing to shake hands, aiming an obscene gesture at him and calling him names.

Tipsarevic then posted a picture of Stepanek's 'sign of the horns' gesture on his Twitter account on Saturday with the words 'It really is a shame that a great tennis nation like CZE is represented by someone like him'.

Zimonjic was then reported to have described Stepanek as "the least likeable guy on the tour, especially on the court" while Bozoljac then refused to shake hands with Stepanek.

"He has shown his weakness," blasted back Stepanek. "It's no good to elaborate."

Meanwhile, brothers Bob and Mike Bryan made it 10 wins in 10 Davis Cup trips to give the United States, the record 32-time champions, a crucial 2-1 edge against France in Monte Carlo.

The Bryans cruised past Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to hand John Isner the opportunity on Sunday to wrap up the tie when the giant American takes on French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first reverse singles.

"When you take American tennis in general, it's probably right to say that clay courts are not our best surface," said US captain Jim Courier.

"But today our players adored being out there. Just look at the way they played on Friday, see how confident John Isner was on clay."

Tsonga had defeated teenager Ryan Harrison 7-5, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 on Friday before Isner saw off Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

If Tsonga levels the tie Sunday, then Simon will tackle Harrison in the decider.

"It's another day. We are playing on a surface which we selected in front of our own crowd. We are going to play and win," said France captain Guy Forget.

The winner of that quarter-final will meet either Spain or Austria while the Czech Republic or Serbia will face either Argentina or Croatia.

David Nalbandian played his second five-hour, five-set match in two days when he teamed with Eduardo Schwank to hand Argentina a 2-1 lead over Croatia in Buenos Aires.

Nalbandian and Schwank saw off Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 8-6 after Friday's opening singles had been shared.


Tags: sport, tennis, spain

First posted April 08, 2012 09:26:44

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