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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / POSTSEASON TOURNAMENTS : TENNIS / DAVIS CUP : Courier, Martin Give U.S. 2-0 Lead

March 26, 1994|From Associated Press

Jim Courier cruised to an easy victory, but Todd Martin needed some big serves and strong nerves to give the United States a 2-0 lead over India Friday at New Delhi in its bid to reclaim the Davis Cup.

Martin beat Leander Paes, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-1), after Courier had defeated Zeeshan Ali, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.

The U.S. team can win the best-of-five, first-round World Group series today, when Patrick McEnroe and Richey Reneberg meet Paes and Gaurav Natekar in doubles.

Paes, ranked 324th in the world, mixed lobs, passes, drop shots and tumbles on the grass court to stretch Martin to a fourth-set tiebreaker.

But the ninth-ranked Martin rifled four service winners, including a second-serve ace that kicked up chalk and skidded out of Paes' reach, to win the tiebreaker. He closed it out with a forehand service return down the line.

Playing his first Davis Cup match, Martin said the Indian crowd unnerved him in the second set. "It rattled me a little, and that's all it takes," he said.

But after a few words from non-playing captain Tom Gullikson and the other players, he said he regained his composure in the third set.

Paes lost his rhythm in the third set, but he thought he had a mental edge in the second and again in the fourth. Martin "pulled out of that situation every time," Paes said, and saved a break with another ace on his second serve.

"(Martin) is very solid. He comes at you every point, especially the big points," Paes said. "Every time you feel you are getting on top of him, he comes up with big serves, solid returns, good volleys."

Courier had no trouble with Ali after Ali won his first service game with four straight points. Then Courier romped through the next nine games.

"When you get so far ahead, it's easy to have a letdown," he said. "Having the crowd still making noise the whole time kept me in it.

"It's a good start. I'm happy the way the team got off. Hopefully, we'll wrap this thing up in the first couple of days."

Last year, the United States, then the defending champion, was knocked out of the first round by Australia. India, led by an inspired Paes, reached the semifinals before losing to Australia.

The United States has won the Davis Cup 30 times and has been a finalist 27 other times. India has been in the final three times.

*

Defending champion Germany and Austria were tied 1-1 after two singles matches, played before an uproariously patriotic crowd of 11,000 at Graz, Austria.

Michael Stich, ranked No. 2 in the world, won the first singles against Austria's Horst Skoff, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Thomas Muster, ranked No. 11 in the world, then beat No. 28 Marc-Kevin Goellner of Germany, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Cheered by the Austrian fans, many sporting the national red-white-red flags and facial makeup to match, Skoff, ranked No. 80, started strong but tired in the third and fourth sets.

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