Originally created 09/22/03

Roddick clinches Davis Cup playoff against Slovakia



BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- Andy Roddick kept the United States in the Davis Cup's top tier, defeating Karol Beck 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 Sunday to win the playoff against Slovakia.

Roddick, the U.S. Open champion, atoned for his opening-day singles loss and gave the Americans an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five series. A loss to Slovakia would have left the United States outside the 16-team World Group and in the Davis Cup's second level for the first time in 15 years.

"I put my team in a very tough position," Roddick said. "I was able to come out and get a win."

Roddick halted his three-match Davis Cup losing string - all on clay - and his victory allows the United States a shot in 2004 at winning its 32nd Davis Cup.

In the last singles, which had no bearing on the outcome, Michal Mertinak defeated Mardy Fish 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, resulting in a 3-2 win for the United States.

Elsewhere in the Davis Cup, Australia and Spain reached the final with 3-2 victories. Australia will be home for the Nov. 28-30 final.

Australia beat visiting Switzerland in Melbourne, with Lleyton Hewitt clinching the semifinal in opening singles, rallying from two sets down to beat Wimbledon champion Roger Federer. In Malaga, Spain, Carlos Moya won the final singles after top-ranked Juan Carlos Ferrero was upset by Argentina's Agustin Calleri in straight sets.

The Americans had lost three straight Davis Cup matches on the road since Patrick McEnroe became captain in 2001 and four straight overall. The last loss was in Croatia in February.

Roddick was upset by Hrbaty on Friday but found Beck an easier opponent. Beck, ranked No. 70, was called on Sunday to replace Karol Kucera. Kucera said he could not play because he injured his right hamstring Friday.

Twins Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's top-ranked doubles team, gave the United States a 2-1 lead Saturday with a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over Hrbaty and Beck.

McEnroe predicted on Saturday that Roddick would be ready. And Roddick was charged up from the first moment - talking to himself on the court, his teammates on the bench and at times shouting at Beck.

"I wanted to come out there with a lot of energy," Roddick said. "I tried to play that first match (Friday) like I played all summer - calm, cool and collected. But I think Davis Cup is a totally different scenario. If you're feeling it, you've got to be jazzed."

He finished with 16 aces to six for Beck. In his previous matches with Roddick, Beck lost once in junior tennis and a year ago in the Davis Cup.

"It was very hard to play him today," Beck said. "He was very motivated and physically very good."

Roddick pounded six aces in the first set, usually keeping Beck on his back foot. Beck's only points came on a few clever drop shots and Roddick's groundstroke errors.

Beck offered some resistance in the second set but not enough. The American broke in the first game. Beck broke back in the fourth game, with Roddick answering with his own break in the next game. Roddick had 13 aces in the first two sets.

On the final two points in the fifth game, Roddick screamed "ooooh" on a crosscourt winner, and then belted out a "whoooo" after the winning point.

Roddick broke in the fifth game of the final set, again screaming as he skipped off the court at the changeover, aware Beck could do little against him. Roddick failed to capitalize on a match point in the ninth game, then took the 10th game and won when Beck struck a backhand wide.



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