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Spain Hands It Over to U.S.

Tennis: Corretja's injury makes it easy for Martin, Blake, whose doubles win gives Americans a 2-1 Davis Cup lead.

April 07, 2002|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HOUSTON — Of course Alex Corretja had a sore hand. Why wouldn't he?

Nearly everyone connected with the Spanish Davis Cup team wanted to high-five, low-five or simply grab Corretja's hand Friday after his stunning five-set victory over Pete Sampras on grass at the Westside Tennis Club.

But, as it turned out, Corretja's highlight moment had a negative impact a day later. When he dived for a volley on the first point in the final game against Sampras, Corretja injured tendons in his right hand and could not grip a racket

So, instead of partnering with Juan Balcells in Saturday's doubles match against Americans Todd Martin and James Blake, Corretja was on the sideline, icing his hand and taping it. His withdrawal turned the doubles into no contest, as Martin and Blake defeated Balcells and Alberto Martin, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, in 1 hour 40 minutes, interrupted by a rain delay of more than 90 minutes in the second set.

It was Todd Martin's first Davis Cup victory since April 1999 after seven consecutive losses, five singles and two doubles. The victory gives the U.S. a 2-1 lead over Spain in this quarterfinal round.

In today's reverse singles, Andy Roddick is scheduled to play Corretja, followed by Sampras against Tommy Robredo, if necessary. Corretja had an MRI exam at a local hospital Saturday and said it showed no additional problems. He is considered questionable for today.

"I was surprised he was hurt," U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said. "That's what's great or unique or whatever you want to say about Davis Cup, it's about three days and it's about a team winning a match. It's not about one player."

Before Corretja's injury became known, the Americans spent a "nervous evening," according to Todd Martin. Balcells and Corretja are 5-2 in Davis Cup doubles together, including wins over Australia and the United States. Alberto Martin, who replaced Corretja, is best known for defeating Lleyton Hewitt in the first round at the Australian Open in January, taking a controversial injury timeout in the deciding fourth-set tiebreaker.

(That is getting to be a trend. Robredo took an injury timeout for a torn toenail at 7-7 in a third-set tiebreaker Friday, angering his opponent, Roddick, and irritating McEnroe.)

Alberto Martin is not known as a doubles specialist, though he did win a minor ATP event in 2000. His serve was broken twice Saturday, as was Balcells'. Even though Balcells is a better doubles player, he had greater difficulty returning serve against Martin and Blake.

The Spaniards had no aces and the Americans combined for 10. Martin and Blake did not face a break point, and Martin's first-serve percentage was an astonishing 84%.

"When there's someone serving 84%, it makes it easier for me," Blake said. "He was returning great. I don't know if I was playing well. It was just pretty easy with the way Todd was playing."

Martin felt an emotional boost of sorts when Sampras arrived at the site, smiling and ready to work out after the crushing singles loss, having taken the first two sets against Corretja.

"I said to James at lunch, 'I was not expecting the Pete that showed up today,'" Martin said. "He had a great attitude. He was happy and having fun. He was shooting baskets.

"For me, it definitely gave me a real sense of comfort, knowing he was still planning on being prepared if we didn't do our job today, so he could win that fifth rubber."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Davis Cup

United States vs. Spain

at Houston

(Best-of-five format,

U.S. leads, 2-1)

Today's singles matches: Andy Roddick vs. Alex Corretja; Pete Sampras vs. Tommy Robredo (if necessary).

Television: Noon, ESPN

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