Roddick wins to even Davis Cup match

Published 9:13 pm Friday, March 6, 2009

BIRMINGHAM — Andy Roddick dominated early and dove late. With that crowd-pleasing combination, he moved the United States into a tie with Switzerland in the Davis Cup and pulled himself even with Andre Agassi.

Roddick beat Marco Chiudinelli 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Friday, tying the Davis Cup match at 1 apiece after James Blake’s four-set loss to Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka put the U.S. in an early hole on the indoor hard court.

Roddick saved his best move for the end, when Chiudinelli was battling to send the match to another set in front of 14,723 fans.

Tied at 4 in the tiebreaker, No. 6-ranked Roddick made a diving backhand that Chiudinelli managed to return, but the Swiss player could only watch from the side as Roddick sent another backhand into a vacant court.

“It was kind of a blur,” Roddick said. “I knew if I could dive I didn’t have to hit it that well, because I had a lot of court to work with. I was able to kind of stick it out there and he ran all over the place at that point. That probably won me the match.”

Roddick moved into a tie with Agassi with his 30th U.S. Davis Cup victory, trailing only John McEnroe (41).

It was Chiudinelli’s third Davis Cup match and first in another country but he said the pro-American crowd didn’t faze him.

“I think the louder they go, the better I play,” he said.

In other first-round series, Russia (over Romania), Argentina (over Netherlands) and Croatia (over Chile) took 2-0 leads. Tied 1-1 were Czech Republic-France and Germany-Austria.

Sweden and Israel were tied 1-1 in Malmo in an arena with no fans. Swedish organizers feared protests against Israel following the recent offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The start of the Spain-Serbia series in Benidorm, Spain, was postponed because strong wind compromised the stadium.

The winners advance to the World Group quarterfinals in July.

No. 16-ranked Wawrinka took some of the pressure off the 341st-ranked Chiudinelli. He beat Blake 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (3) to get the Swiss off to a nice start but Roddick erased the lead.

“It’s always good to have Andy in that situation,” U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said. “He’s been there many times before. He came out with a great start and set the tone right away. If there’s anyone you want when you’re 0-1 down, it’s Andy Roddick. He handles the situation really well and he did that today.”

Maybe that’s because Roddick’s approach was the situation hadn’t changed all that much with Blake’s loss.

“It’s a team competition,” he said. “He’s picked me up before and I’ve picked him up before. It doesn’t really change the scenario. You come into the day trying to pick up a point for your team.”

The U.S. sends out top-ranked doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan on Saturday against Wawrinka and Yves Allegro hoping to take a lead into the final day of the best-of-five series.

Wawrinka is easily the top-rated Swiss team member and has won all three of his matches against No. 13 Blake, though the first two had come on clay, the American’s least favorite surface.

Blake had won six straight Davis Cup matches but he couldn’t stop Wawrinka’s rally.

“He served a lot better and my serve was erratic,” Blake said. “He was doing a good job when I was making first serves of getting it back and putting it in play.”

The Americans became sizable favorites when 13-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer dropped out with a back injury.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” Wawrinka said. “In the rankings, they are better, but I knew I needed to win the first match. It was very tough. It was a very important match for the rest of the weekend.”

Blake survived a break point to take a 4-3 lead in the fourth set, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Wawrinka kept the American fans somewhat subdued with six straight points during the tiebreaker, including his 19th ace. Blake won the next two points but Wawrinka put him away by burying a forehand into the left corner.

Wawrinka won points off his second serve nearly two-thirds of the time.

“That’s frustrating,” Blake said. “When you get opportunities, when you get looks, you want to take advantage of those. That’s going to be the biggest difference in matches like this when it hinges on one or two points.”