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Croatia Shortens Rotation

February 23, 2005|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

The four-player team named Tuesday by Croatia to play the United States in the first round of the Davis Cup starting next week might as well be a two-man squad.

It starts with Ivan Ljubicic, 25, and essentially ends with Mario Ancic, 20, a semifinalist at Wimbledon last year. Also on the squad are Roko Karanusic and Zeljko Krajan, who won't play at the Home Depot Center in Carson unless there's an injury.

Not on the Croatian team is hard-serving Ivo Karlovic. The 6-foot-10 Karlovic, who upset Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon in 2003, apparently is involved in a dispute with officials.

"There was some misunderstandings between him and the captain, but I don't want to go into this," Ancic said Tuesday from the men's tour stop in Scottsdale, Ariz. He had just finished his first match there, beating Brendan Evans, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

There's little question that the recent play of Ancic and Ljubicic at indoor events has raised the level of intrigue for the Davis Cup March 4-6.

Ljubicic has reached two finals in February, losing to top-ranked Roger Federer on Sunday in Rotterdam, and to Joachim Johansson in Marseille, France, the previous week. Federer needed a third-set tiebreaker to put away Ljubicic, and Ljubicic beat Ancic in three tough sets in the semifinals at Rotterdam.

Last summer, Ancic and Ljubicic won the bronze medal in doubles at the Olympics.

Playing for the United States will be Andy Roddick, twins Bob and Mike Bryan, and Andre Agassi, who will be playing his first Davis Cup match in almost five years.

"They were even favored before [Agassi] announced," Ancic said. "But we're playing good, and we're pretty confident.... We're going to have to play great tennis, the best tennis we can play to try to make the upset. It is three days. It's long."

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