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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Nalbandian stokes up Hewitt feud
DAVIS CUP SEMIS
David Nalbandian
Argentina v Australia
(Buenos Aires)
Russia v USA (Moscow)
David Nalbandian has upped the tension ahead of Argentina's Davis Cup semi against Australia by saying Lleyton Hewitt has no friends on the ATP tour.

Nalbandian, who is involved in a long-standing feud with the Australian, said: "Nobody is a friend of him.

"My victory over him in Australia (in the Davis Cup quarter-finals last year) was not only important for me but for the whole team.

"We won in Australia (4-1) and we will again here."

Argentina's victory over Australia on grass in Sydney last year was a major surprise.

It was inspired by world number four Nalbandian, who won both his singles rubbers and the doubles.

If Australia were to respond by winning on clay in Buenos Aires, it would be as big a shock.

Hewitt, who has caused controversy by arriving in Argentina with two bodyguards, refused to be drawn into a war of words with Nalbandian.

"There's no doubt we're the underdogs and we were disappointed to lose last year, but they beat us fair and square and obviously Nalbandian had a lot to do with that," he said.

"We understand the situation and it was a good effort by them to win away from home and it's going to be just as tough for us to do it this weekend."

The duo have been kept apart in Friday's opening singles but will meet in the first return singles match on Sunday.

We feel like we're already 1-0 up with the Bryans

James Blake

Nalbandian will open his side's challenge against Mark Philippoussis on Friday, with Jose Acasuso taking on Lleyton Hewitt in the second rubber.

Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri will face Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley in the doubles on Saturday before Nalbandian meets Hewitt and Acasuso plays Philippoussis on Sunday.

Australia captain John Fitzgerald is buoyed by being able to call on both Hewitt and Philippoussis for the first time in more than two years.

USA return to the scene of their last Davis Cup triumph in the other semi-final.

Former world number one Pete Sampras inspired the US to victory over Russia in Moscow in the 1995 final.

Now a strong team spearheaded by Andy Roddick and James Blake returns to take on a Russian outfit led by in-form Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny and Marat Safin.

But world number five Dayvdenko has been dropped from the opening singles in favour of Marat Safin.

World number six Roddick opens up against Safin and is due to face Youzhny, who he beat in the semi-finals of the US Open earlier this month, in the reverse singles on Sunday.

But the Russian thinks this match will be very different from the one in New York.

"It was on his terms, because it was played on a hard court in New York," he said.

"Now we're going to meet on clay in Moscow."

The world's top doubles pairing, Bob and Mike Bryan, will take on Davydenko and Dmitry Tursunov on Saturday.

Blake said: "We feel like we're already 1-0 up with the Bryans. It's a matter of me and Andy trying to figure out a way to get two wins on clay.

"I have a feeling we can do it, but I'm sure they're going in there confident."


Argentina v Australia:

Playing on Friday:
David Nalbandian v Mark Philippoussis
Jose Acasuso v Lleyton Hewitt

Playing on Saturday:
David Nalbandian/Agustin Calleri v Wayne Arthurs/Paul Hanley

Playing on Sunday:
David Nalbandian v Lleyton Hewitt
Jose Acasuso v Mark Philippoussis

Russia v USA:

Playing on Friday:
Marat Safin v Andy Roddick
Mikhail Youzhny v James Blake

Playing on Saturday:
Nikolay Davydenko/Dmitry Tursunov v Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan

Playing on Sunday:
Mikhail Youzhny v Andy Roddick
Marat Safin v James Blake



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