Sweden, Germany rally in Davis Cup

Sweden and Germany rallied on Friday to ensure their Davis Cup semifinal matches will be decided on the final day.

Thomas Johansson beat James Blake to put Sweden even at 1-1 in their best-of-five series against the visiting United States, and Philipp Kohlschreiber did the same for Germany by defeating fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko.

In the Davis Cup play-offs, Roger Federer earned a point for Switzerland against the Czech Republic, Novak Djokovic did the same for Serbia against Australia, and Tim Henman won what could be his final competitive singles match to help Britain take a 2-0 lead over Croatia.

The Americans, who own a record 31 Davis Cup titles, took a 1-0 lead when Andy Roddick beat Joachim Johansson 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-3 in Goteborg. But Thomas Johansson pulled a point back by defeating Blake 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Russia got their first point in the opening match, with Igor Andreev beating Tommy Haas 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. Kohlschreiber then gave the Germans a point by defeating Davydenko 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

Roddick broke Joachim Johansson for the only time in the match to lead 4-3 in the third set.
The American, who finished with 30 aces, then held at love for the 11th time to close out the match. Johansson had 23 aces.

“Joachim played very, very aggressive,” Roddick said. “It was tough to read his serve. I started to do better on his second at least. On the first I could only try to lean either way.”

Johansson, a former Australian Open champion, broke Blake’s serve on his second break point to lead 3-1 in the fourth set. That was all he needed, holding his serve the rest of the way.

Davydenko had a chance to lead 5-2 in the third set but he wasted three break points. After holding serve in that game, Kohlschreiber broke the Russian in the next to get back to 4-4.

“I should have made it 5-2,” Davydenko said. “He played it short and I went for the ball, and I knew I could make it 5-2, but I hit the frame ... At that point I felt I could not win that game.”

Federer, making his 2007 debut in the Davis Cup, beat Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) with a spot in next year’s World Group on the line. “It was a very tough match in the end, but it did not look it at the beginning,” Federer said.

In September 2005, Federer helped Switzerland beat Britain 5-0 in the play-offs and did the same in a 4-1 win over Serbia last year.

Djokovic easily beat Peter Luczak 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to give Serbia the lead, but former top-ranked player Lleyton Hewitt put Australia back in the series by beating Janko Tipsarevic 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.

Djokovic, who reached the US Open final earlier this month, broke Luczak twice and lost only two points on his serve in the first set. “I must admit that I was more nervous today then when I played the US Open final,” said Djokovic, who had 16 aces in the match. “Playing in front of my family, friends and such a crowd is something completely different.”

Playing at Wimbledon one last time before retirement, Henman beat Roko Karanusic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in the second singles match.

Henman, who announced last month that he was retiring after the Davis Cup play-off, could play in Saturday’s doubles alongside Jamie Murray. If Britain clinches victory before Sunday’s reverse singles matches, Henman may not play.

“It’s obviously pretty emotional playing a match like that, but I don’t know if I’ll be back,” Henman said. “We’re in a great position, we’re 2-0 up but we’ve got to finish it off ... We’ve got options tomorrow and we’ll have a chat and see how everyone’s feeling.”

In the first match at the All England Club, Andy Murray defeated 108th-ranked Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

In the other play-offs, it was: Austria 2, Brazil 0; Israel 2, Chile 1; Japan 1, Romania 1; and Slovakia 1, South Korea 1. Later on Friday, Peru were hosting Belarus.—Sapa-AP

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