Originally created 04/09/00

Czechs take 2-1 lead on U.S. in Davis Cup quarterfinals



INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- John McEnroe has a message for his struggling U.S. Davis Cup team: Stop resting on your Grand Slam trophies and start hustling.

"We're acting like spoiled kids," the rookie U.S. captain said. "We've got to work harder."

That was evident Saturday as Jiri Novak and David Rikl beat Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 to give Czech Republic a surprising 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 quarterfinal.

"This is not a dream. This is the reality," Novak said. "We are very happy. We are very surprised we won three-love."

O'Brien, Palmer, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras own a combined 20 Grand Slam titles, but McEnroe said his team should stop being surprised by the Czechs and dig in.

"You have to forget about the fact that you've won all these things. If we're guilty of anything, we haven't played hard enough," McEnroe said. "I just want us to work harder so that we can pull this thing out. There's extra effort that needs to be taken."

McEnroe said Sampras didn't work hard enough Friday in a stunning straight-set loss to Novak, who has played the best tennis of his career for two consecutive days. Andre Agassi evened things by defeating Slava Dosedel in three sets.

"We can't just expect to win no matter who you play," McEnroe said.

The Americans were in similar trouble in the first round against Zimbabwe, McEnroe's debut as captain. They won the final two matches for a 3-2 victory, only the fourth such comeback by a U.S. team in Davis Cup history.

They'll have to do it again today.

Agassi and Sampras must win their reverse singles matches to send the United States into the next round in July. Agassi plays Novak and Sampras faces Dosedel on the fast indoor hardcourt.

Novak and Rikl had lost twice to O'Brien and Palmer on the ATP Tour this year, but this time the Czechs controlled the entire match. They broke Palmer for a 6-5 lead in the first set. Then they staved off two break points on Rikl's serve to close out the set 7-5.

O'Brien and Palmer led 3-2 in the second set when they held two break points on Novak's serve. But O'Brien netted a backhand service return to waste the first one and Rikl's crosscourt poach erased the second. O'Brien netted a service return to let the Czechs tie the set 3-3.

"It was a frustrating day for us. Doubles can be strange like that," O'Brien said. "They took it to us and we didn't step up and get the job done."

O'Brien's backhand error gave the Czechs the only break of the second set, which they won on Novak's smash.

"I never even felt like I had any rhythm," O'Brien said. "They kept us out of our game. They forced us to make changes, and that's why they beat us."