The opening singles rubber in the Davis Cup first round tie between Germany and Croatia consisted of the only men's top-10 clash in the whole of the world group fixtures on Friday. Tommy Haas, ranked 10 on the men's circuit and fresh from his run to the Australian Open semi-finals, faced the ninth-best player in the world, Croat Mario Ancic, at the Konig Palace in Krefeld and the first set went with billing. By the time set point arrived, big-serving Ancic was on the verge of breaking Haas for the second time and he duly took the first set 6-2 by guiding his volley over the net after dominating another rally. However, Haas responded in the second set with an early break before hammering an ace down the middle on set point to level the match at one-set-all: 2-6, 6-4. Haas set the tone in the third as well as he broke immediately and although Ancic bravely saved set point in the ninth game, the German reached Ancic's cross-court forehand at the net and his sublime drop-volley gave the German a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 lead. It only needed one more crucial break - this time at 2-3 in the fourth set - and set and match point were not far away. After another rally, a sweet Haas backhand down the line wrongfooted the Croatian to complete a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win. Delight for Germany coach Patrick Kuehnan, seen here shaking the hand of his Croatia counterpart Goran Prpic, as the Davis Cup winners in 1988, '89 and '93 took a one-nil lead in the best-of-five tie. The pressure was now on Ivan Ljubicic, ranked eighth in the world, to level the tie in the second singles rubber when he took on Davis Cup debutant Benjamin Becker - seeded 49 on the men's circuit. Despite his inexperience at this level, Becker was inspired as the first set went to a tie break. Then, on set point, he wrong-footed Ljubicic, went cross-court with his forehand and the German had taken a 7-6 (7-4) lead after winning the tie break on his first appearance in the most prestigious international competition in tennis. But Becker - no relation to former world number one Boris - was unable to maintain his momentum, and Ljubicic came back to win the next three sets - 6-4 6-2 6-3 - and level the tie at one rubber each.
Topics : Tennis