MOSCOW: Marat Safin staged a remarkable comeback to win the opening singles before Radek Stepanek pulled the Czech Republic level at 1-1 in its Davis Cup quarterfinal against Russia on Friday.
Former World No. 1 Safin had struggled all season and is ranked 87th in the world but he found his rhythm in the nick of time to wear down Tomas Berdych 6-7(5), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in just under four hours to whoops and cheers from the partisan crowd.
But World No. 28 Stepanek later played a controlled match against Igor Andreev to win 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 and leave the tie evenly poised ahead of Saturday’s doubles match.
Stepanek’s serve-and-volley tactics frustrated Andreev, who rarely won a point against Stepanek’s serve.
At Buenos Aires, David Nalbandian drew first blood for Argentina in its Davis Cup quarterfinal against Sweden, beating Thomas Johansson 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Facing an opponent ranked 55 places below him, Nalbandian outclassed the Swede in the opening set, finishing with a powerful backhand on his first set point after breaking serve in the sixth game.
Nalbandian then lost concentration and showed signs of frustration as he lost his serve in the 11th game of the second set .
Nalbandian, however, regained his rhythm in the third set, taking his opponent’s serve early on to lead 5-2.
The experienced Swede broke back in the ninth game but Nalbandian replied with a break of his own in the next to take the third set.
Nalbandian swept through the fourth set, sealing victory on his second match point in two hours 54 minutes when Johansson dumped a forehand into the net.
Nadal beats Kiefer
At Bremen, Rafael Nadal shrugged off a bout of jet-lag to beat Nicolas Kiefer 7-6(5), 6-0, 6-3 and give Spain a 1-0 lead over Germany on Friday.
Nadal, who has had trouble sleeping since flying in from Miami at the start of the week, made a sluggish start on the indoor hard court but edged an 88-minute first set 7-5 on the tiebreak, after blowing a chance to serve for it at 5-4. — Agencies
The results: At Moscow: Russia 1 – Czech Republic 1 (Igor Andreev lost to Radek Stepanek 3-6, 2-6, 4-6; Tomas Berdych lost to Marat Safin 7-6(5), 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 4-6).
At Bremen: Germany 0 – Spain 1 (Nicolas Kiefer lost to Rafael Nadal 6-7(5), 0-6, 3-6).
At Buenos Aires: Argentina 1 – Sweden 0 (David Nalbandian bt Thomas Johansson 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2). — Agencies