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DAVIS CUP

Doubles Team Gives U.S. a French Twist

September 22, 2002|From Associated Press

PARIS — Don't count out the U.S. Davis Cup team just yet.

James Blake and Todd Martin came back to beat Mickael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro in five sets Saturday, allowing the United States to stave off elimination in the semifinals against defending champion France.

Blake's smash ended the 2-6, 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 doubles victory as the U.S. team narrowed its deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-five series on clay at Roland Garros, home of the French Open.

"This feels great," Blake said. "It got us back into this, and now we've got a chance to win tomorrow. That's what makes the Davis Cup so exciting."

In the other Davis Cup semifinal, at Moscow, Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian and Lucas Arnold outlasted Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin, 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 19-17, in a match that lasted more than six hours. The victory drew Argentina to within 2-1.

Blake and Andy Roddick, beaten in Friday's singles matches, both must win today for the U.S. to avoid elimination. The last time a U.S. Davis Cup squad won after trailing, 2-0, was in 1934 against Australia. Roddick plays Sebastien Grosjean, and Blake plays Arnaud Clement today.

"I'm really excited for tomorrow," said Blake, who beat Clement in their only previous match, at Cincinnati last month. Roddick and Grosjean never have played each other in competition, but the two have trained together in Boca Raton, Fla., where they live.

The United States holds the Davis Cup record of 31 titles. Its last victory was in 1995 and it hasn't reached a final since 1997.

"I think the guys will have learned a lot from what happened yesterday," U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said. "It's going to be tough, but these guys learn quickly."

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