US, Germany take leads in Davis Cup semifinals

The United States and Germany each won their doubles matches on Friday to move within one point of reaching the Davis Cup final.

Top-ranked doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan gave the US a 2-1 lead at Sweden by beating Simon Aspelin and Jonas Bjorkman 7-6 (11), 6-2, 6-3, and Germany went ahead 2-1 at defending champions Russia when Alexander Waske and Philipp Petzschner defeated Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5).

In the World Group play-offs, Roger Federer and Yves Allegro wasted a match point in the third set and eventually lost to Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-4 to hand the Czech Republic a 2-1 lead over Switzerland.

Tim Henman, a four-time Wimbledon semifinalist who was likely playing in his last competitive match, teamed with Jamie Murray to send Britain into the World Group with an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Croatia at Wimbledon.

In Belgrade, Novak Djokovic helped Serbia take a 2-1 lead over 28-time Davis Cup champions Australia by joining with Nenad Zimonjic to beat Lleyton Hewitt and Paul Hanley 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

The Bryan twins, who are 12-1 in Davis Cup doubles for the US, saved three set points in the tiebreaker on the Scandinavium Arena’s fast indoor carpet.

Aspelin then netted a forehand volley off Mike Bryan’s excellent service return on the Americans’ fourth set point.

“The first set could have gone either way. It actually lifted our game and we started playing better and better,” Bob Bryan said.

The American pair broke Bjorkman’s serve twice to win the second set.
In the third, Bjorkman dropped his serve for the third time, and the Americans held the rest of the way.

The best-of-five series will be decided on Sunday when Andy Roddick faces Thomas Johansson and James Blake takes on Joachim Johansson in the reverse singles.

Petzschner, who was making his Davis Cup debut for Germany, lost only five points on his serve in the first three sets. Waske, however, wasn’t so dominating with his.

The hosts capitalised on the German’s poor serve to win the second set, then forced a tiebreaker in the third after saving a break point in the seventh game. The Russians then had a break point in the third game of the fourth set, but could not capitalise despite Waske’s elbow pain.

“There was one serve in the fourth set when I heard a click,” said Waske, who broke his right elbow at the French Open in June. “I was this close to quitting.”

On Sunday, Nikolay Davydenko was scheduled to face Tommy Haas, followed by Igor Andreev against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Federer, who is making his 2007 debut in the Davis Cup, and Allegro had a match point at 6-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, but the Czechs held on and won the set.

In the fourth set, Allegro double-faulted to give the Czechs a 2-1 lead. The hosts then broke Allegro for the second time to go ahead 4-3 in the final set before Berdych won with a powerful serve that Federer failed to return. “We haven’t been knocked out yet,” Federer said. “It’s open.”

On Sunday, Berdych faces Federer and Stepanek takes on Stanislas Wawrinka.

Henman hit a forehand cross-court winner on the final shot in his last match before retirement. He and Murray beat Marin Cilic and Lovro Zovko 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 on the grass at the All England Club.

“Today was an incredible atmosphere and the quality of tennis was equally high,” said the 33-year-old Henman, who also won his singles match on Friday. “To finish with Britain back in the World Group is just fantastic.”

Serbia trailed by a set and a break, but the hosts held on to their serve for the rest of the match and broke the Australians six times.

“Everyone knows that my priority is the singles, so this victory is very important for me,” said Djokovic, the US Open finalist who has played only six doubles matches with Zimonjic.

Australia are trying to avoid relegation to the Asia-Oceania zone for the first time since 1996, while Serbia are trying to earn their first appearance in the World Group.

On Sunday, Djokovic plays Hewitt and Janko Tipsarevic faces Peter Luczak in reverse singles.

In the other play-offs, it was: Austria 3, Brazil 0; Israel 2, Chile 1; Japan 2, Romania 1; Slovakia 1, South Korea 2; and Peru 1, Belarus 0.—Sapa-AP

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