US, France and Argentina into Davis Cup last eight

Defending champions America and France, two of the most successful countries in Davis Cup history, will clash in this year’s quarterfinals after cruising through their World Group first-round ties.

The United States, the 31-time champions, saw off Austria 3-0 while nine-time winners France also opened up a 3-0 lead over Romania.

The two nations, who have seven wins each from their 14 meetings, will clash in the last eight in April at Winston-Salem in North Carolina where France will attempt to win on American soil for the first time since 1927.

In Vienna, American doubles powerhouses Bob and Mike Bryan showed no mercy in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 hammering of Julian Knowles and Jurgen Melzer to take their personal mark in the competition to 14-1.

“It came easy for us,” said Mike Bryan. “After we broke in the first game we were never really under the gun. We never felt any big-time pressure.”

Andy Roddick and James Blake had both won their opening singles on Friday.

In Sibiu, Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra saw off Horia Tecau and Florin Mergea 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 3-6, 6-2 as the French reached the quarterfinals for the eighth year in a row.

After Richard Gasquet and Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had won Friday’s singles, Clement and Llodra, the finalists in Melbourne this year, had been expected to cruise through on Saturday against a pair ranked outside the top 500.

But after opening up a two-set lead they wasted two match points in the third set before they settled the affair with a commanding final set performance.

“We have the potential to beat [America’s top players] Andy Roddick and James Blake,” said French captain Guy Forget.

“I’m not worried about it but we will have to play three perfect matches.”

In Moscow, Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic kept alive Serbia’s chances by defeating Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5).

That made the overall score 2-1 ahead of Sunday’s reverse singles.

“I’m happy that we’re still in,” said Djokovic who missed the singles on Friday because of flu.

“It was not really encouraging as we were 2-0 down after the first day with our three best players injured or sick but today we played solid tennis.”

The winners of the tie will face the Czech Republic, who defeated Belgium 3-0, in the last eight.

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek beat Olivier Rochus and Kristof Vliegen 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 in the doubles in Ostrava as the Czechs made the quarterfinals for the first time in six years.

“It’s a relief to go through,” said Stepanek.

Argentina eased into the last eight when David Nalbandian and Jose Acasuso beat Jamie Murray and Ross Hutchins 6-2, 7-6 (13/11), 6-0 in the doubles for a 3-0 win over Great Britain in Buenos Aires.

The powerful South Americans will face either Israel or Sweden in the last eight.

“Our goal is to win Davis Cup,” said coach Alberto Mancini, whose team can wrap up a tenth 5-0 whitewash from their last 11 home matches in Sunday’s reverse singles.

Israel opened up a 2-1 lead in their tie after Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram beat Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt 6-3, 7-6, 7-5 in Ramat Hasharon.

The other last eight tie will see Peru or Spain meet either Germany or South Korea.

Philipp Kohlschreiber and Philipp Petzschner put Germany into a 2-1 lead over the Koreans after a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win over Jun Woong-Sun and An Jae-Sung.

Spain, without world number two Rafael Nadal, beat Peru 3-0 in Lima after Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco wrapped up the tie when they defeated Luis Horna and Ivan Miranda 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 7/4) in Saturday’s doubles.—Sapa-AFP

Client Media Releases

Tender awarded for SA's longest cable-stayed bridge
MTN backs SA's youth to 'think tech, do business'
Being intelligent about business data
PhD for 79-year-old theology graduate