Sun, 06 Mar 2005

From: Reuters

Slovakia ends Spain's Davis Cup reign

Agencies, Bratislava

Slovakia ended Spain's Davis Cup reign on Saturday, winning the doubles match in their World Group first round tie to take an unassailable 3-0 lead.

Just three months after beating the United States to win the cup for the second time, the depleted Spanish armada was sunk by a fast surface and a pesky Slovak team that launched an all-out attack at its opponents.

Karol Beck and Michal Mertinak clinched the heroic upset with a tight 7-6 6-4 7-6 win over Rafael Nadal and Alberto Costa after Dominik Hrbaty and Beck had put the upstart Slovaks 2-0 ahead in thd opening singles on Friday.

"The Spaniards fought hard, it's rare to see resistance that is so tough," Slovak captain Miroslav Mecir said.

"I have always said that Rafael Nadal is a great player and a personality who does not give up, and this makes our victory even more precious."

Spain were without the powerful Carlos Moya, who left the Davis Cup behind to concentrate on grand slams this year, while other leading Spaniards Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo were out due to injury.

Nonetheless, they started as clear favorites having reached the final three times in the past five years, winning the title twice while Slovakia had only made it back to the World Group two years ago and never made it past the quarterfinals.

"They (Slovaks) played better than us in the key points... We tried to do our best, and we are proud of what we did, but they were better," Spanish captain Jordi Arrese said.

In Sydney, Wayne Arthurs and Todd Woodbridge beat Austria's Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer in five sets on Saturday to give the home team victory with an unbeatable 3-0 lead.

In Carson, California, Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic ruined Andre Agassi's return to the U.S. Davis Cup team 6-3, 7-6 (0), 6-3 in the opening singles of the World Group tie on Friday.

Ljubicic dominated throughout to hand Agassi only his sixth loss in 36 Davis Cup matches.

"I just never settled in," Agassi said. "I got what I deserved out there.