Spain cruise in Davis Cup, Serbs edge ahead

Somdev Devvarman (left) and Rohan Bopanna of India react after winning a point during their Davis Cup World Group first round doubles match against Serbia in Novi Sad. (AFP)

Spain, Sweden and Argentina reached the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup after sealing World Group first round victories with a minimum of fuss on Saturday.

Holders Serbia edged 2-1 in front of India, although as was the case in Friday’s singles, their unfancied opponents put up fierce resistance in Novi Sad.
Favourites Spain, seeking to regain the title they have made a habit of winning over the past 11 years, took a 3-0 lead against Belgium in Charleroi as Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco beat Olivier Rochus and Steve Darcis 7-6 6-4 6-3.
Belgium have yet to win a set in the tie with Sunday’s two ‘dead’ rubbers to come - one of which world number one Rafa Nadal will treat as a glorified practice against Xavier Malisse.
Nadal made a winning return on Friday after more than a month out injured when he cruised past Ruben Bemelmans to give his side a 2-0 lead that Belgium were ill-equipped to overhaul.
Lopez is already casting his mind ahead to a quarter-final against the United States, after Bob and Mike Bryan gave Jim Courier’s side a 2-1 lead against Chile in Santiago.
“The match against the United States will be extremely tough,” he told reporters. “They are one of the toughest teams we could get playing away, with Andy Roddick and John Isner and the world’s best doubles team.”
Sweden took an unassailable lead against a below-strength Russia with Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt beating Igor Kunitsyn and Dmitry Tursunov while in Buenos Aires, Argentina also established a 3-0 lead.
The other five first round ties are all still alive going into Sunday’s reverse singles with the US, Germany, France, Czech Republic and Serbia one point away from progressing to the last eight.
Serbia probably expected to be home and dry against India even without world number three Novak Djokovic who skipped the tie to prepare early for next week’s Indian Wells tournament.
However, Janko Tipsarevic’s defeat by Somdev Devvarman on Friday threw a spanner in the works, meaning Saturday’s doubles featuring Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic against Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna took on huge significance.
Once again the Indians were in no mood to be bullied in the 6,000-capacity SPENS Sports Centre in the town that produced former women’s world number one Monica Seles.
The Indian duo took the first set but Bozoljac and Zimonjic responded to win 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 and give Serbia a 2-1 lead.
It was edge-of-the-seat stuff in a 12-10 tiebreak where India were within a point of forcing a fifth set.
“We were in a tight spot after dropping the first set and had to raise our game considerably to win the match,” said Zimonjic.
“We were a bit lucky to save that set point when we hit some impossible shots and we are glad we are ahead in the tie.”
Viktor Troicki, who sealed Serbia’s epic triumph against France in December’s final in Belgrade, faces Devvarman in Sunday’s first reverse singles.
The winners face an away tie in Sweden.
France were stalled by Austria inside a hangar at Vienna’s international airport - Juergen Melzer and Oliver Marach keeping the tie alive for the hosts with victory over Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.
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