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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 19:46 GMT
Russia rally against Czechs
Czech Republic player Jiri Novak
Novak found his best form in the third set

Russia made a losing start to their defence of the Davis Cup in Friday's opening World Group tie against the Czech Republic.

But Mikhail Youzhny ensured his side ended the first day level, scoring a five-set comeback win over Radek Stepanek after Nykolay Davydenko had lost to Jiri Novak.

And the USA also had to come from 1-0 down to finish all square on the first day of their meeting with Croatia.

Czech number one Novak beat Davydenko 6-4 4-6 6-1 6-1 in Ostrava to give his side a 1-0 lead in their first round tie against the holders.

Novak started defensively and struggled for two sets against the Davis Cup debutant before stepping up a gear to power through the third and fourth.

I will need to serve better on Sunday if we are to win

Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic

The world number 10 acknowledged his nervous opening but added: "The decisive moment came at the start of the third set.

"I relaxed and started playing excellent tennis, trying to avoid making errors, seeking to speed up the game, which proved to be key."

Youzhny also made a slow start but again rallied to overcome Stepanek 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (8-6) 6-2 6-3.

In Zagreb, Ivan Ljubicic produced a serving performance worthy of team-mate Goran Ivanisevic to give Croatia the perfect start against American Mardy Fish.

Ljubicic blasted 30 aces in a 7-5 6-3 6-4 win over Davis Cup debutant Fish and faced only one break point on serve.

However, James Blake hit back for the US to level the tie with a 6-1 6-2 7-6 (7-5) win over Mario Ancic.

James Blake in action in Zagreb
James Blake hit back for the US with a straight-sets win
Spain made the perfect start to their match against Belgium in Seville, taking a 2-0 lead after the opening singles.

Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya saw off the challenge of Christophe Rochus and Xavier Malisse in straight sets each.

Ferrero overpowered Rochus 6-3 6-2 7-5 and although Moya had a harder time against Malisse, he won the important points to triumph 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 7-6 (7-5).

Argentina made a winning start against Germany in Buenos Aires, David Nalbandian and Gaston Gaudio recording straight-sets wins over Lars Burgsmuller and Australian Open runner-up Rainer Schuttler.

In Arnhem, the Netherlands and Switzerland ended the first day at 1-1.

Sjeng Schalken beat Michel Kratochvil in five sets before Roger Federer hit back with a 6-2 6-1 6-3 defeat of Raemon Sluiter.

Last year's runners-up France lead Romania 2-0 in Bucharest after straight sets wins for Sebastien Grosjean and Nicolas Escude over Adrian Voinea and Andrei Pavel.

Gustavo Kuerten gave Brazil a winning start to their tie in Sweden, beating Andreas Vinciguerra 6-1 6-4 6-4.

But Jonas Bjorkman levelled the tie with a marathon 6-4 5-7 6-2 4-6 6-1 victory over Andre Sa.


Other first-day scores

Euro-African Zone:
Norway 0-2 Austria
Belarus 2-0 Israel
American Zone:
Cuba 2-0 Colombia
Ecuador 2-0 Chile
Peru 2-0 Bahamas
Asia-Oceania Zone:
Iran 1-1 Lebanon
India 1-1 Japan
New Zealand 2-0 Pakistan
Uzbekistan 1-1 Indonesia
Thailand 2-0 South Korea
Hong Kong 2-0 Tajikistan
Chinese Taipei 2-0 Kazakhstan


Australia 4-1 GB

Other first-round news

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