World's top three win but only in playoffs

Karol Beck beat Guillermo Coria to give Slovakia a surprise early lead against Argentina.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:49 IST
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London:Karol Beck beat Guillermo Coria to give Slovakia a surprise early lead against Argentina, and Croatia and Russia finished 1-1 on the first day Friday of the Davis Cup semifinals. Meanwhile, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick - the top three players in the world - won in the World Group playoffs for Switzerland, 2004 champion Spain, and the United States respectively. Beck upset No. 8-ranked Coria 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 on a hard court in Bratislava. Beck broke Coria once in each set. In the second singles, Dominik Hrbaty was playing David Nalbandian. Argentina, playing its third semifinal in four years, is favored against a Slovakia team which has reached the semifinals for the first time. In Split, Croatia, Russia's Nikolay Davydenko beat Mario Ancic 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Ivan Ljubicic, who has played his best tennis in Davis Cup, rallied to level the tie with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Mikhail Youzhny. Davydenko, who has never lost to a Croatian on the ATP tour, played above his own expectations against Ancic. "It was probably the best indoor match I have ever played," he said. Russia is the only team in the semifinals which has won the Davis Cup, and captain Shamil Tarpischev was seeking to become the first person to achieve the double in the same year, after leading the Russian women to the Fed Cup title last weekend. In the playoffs, the winner remains in the elite 16-nation World Group, while the loser drops down to zonal play next year. Federer did not play when Switzerland lost its first-round match to the Netherlands. He returned for the tie against Britain in Geneva and overwhelmed 262nd-ranked Alan Mackin 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 on the indoor red clay. Stansilas Wawrinka beat Scottish 18-year-old Andrew Murray 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the second singles. "I've been waiting for this moment a long time," said Federer, back with the Swiss team for the first time in 17 months. "I've never gone 6-0, 6-0 on the ATP tour and I don't remember the last time I played someone ranked that low." The United States was in danger of being relegated from the World Group for the first time in 17 years. The US team went 1-0 down against Belgium when Olivier Rochus beat James Blake 6-4, 7-5, 6-1 on the red clay at the Sportplaza in Leuven. Roddick made it 1-1 by beating Rochus' brother, Christophe, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. "It put a little more pressure on us," Roddick said. Spain won the Davis Cup last year but crashed to a 4-1 opening round defeat to Slovakia in March. Nadal only played the doubles that time but, after winning the French Open, the 19-year-old has risen to second in the world. Nadal beat Italy's Daniele Bracciali 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 after teammate Juan Carlos Ferrero was upset by Andreas Seppi 5-7, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 in Torre del Greco, Italy. "I was very motivated, even when I fell two sets down," said Seppi, who has never won a professional tournament. "It's already a dream to play Davis Cup against Ferrero, who was one of my idols. To beat him is unbelievable." In other World Group playoffs it was: Austria 1, Ecuador 1; Chile 1, Pakistan 0; Czech Republic 1, Germany 0 and India 0, Sweden 1. Canada hosts Belarus. (AP)

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