MOSCOW -- After nearly five hours of punishing, draining
tennis, the United States was left with an unmistakable fact: It is
out of the Davis Cup again, and the days of relying on Pete Sampras
and Andre Agassi are long gone.
The latest loss came in the semifinals Sunday when Andy Roddick
lost 17-15 to Russia's Dmitry Tursunov in a fifth-set marathon.
"You feel like you let your teammates down and your country
down," Roddick said. "It's not an easy thing, especially to fight
back all that way and to lose. It's tough."
The Americans trailed 2-1 entering the last day of the
best-of-five competition and needed singles victories from Roddick
and James Blake on the clay court at Olympic Stadium to advance.
But Tursunov put Russia into the title match against Argentina
by winning 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 17-15 in the clincher. Blake
defeated Marat Safin 7-5, 7-6 (4) in an inconsequential finale,
leaving Russia with a 3-2 victory.
The Russians will host Argentina in December in their first
Davis Cup final since they beat France in 2002 for their only
title. Argentina ousted Australia in the other semifinal,
completing a 5-0 rout in which Sunday's last match was declared a
walkover. Russia coach Shamil Tarpishchev said he would not play on
clay against Argentina.
The 72 games by Roddick and Tursunov tied a record for the most
in a World Group match since the tiebreaker was introduced in 1989
-- France's Arnaud Clement defeated Switzerland's Marc Rosset in the
2001 quarterfinals in 72 games. Sunday's match lasted 4 hours, 48
"When you're coming up on the five-hour mark, I promise you,
neither one of us is feeling fresh. Especially when you add in the
tension and nervousness of the Davis Cup," Roddick said. "I think
I could just as easily have won as lost."
U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe praised Roddick's effort, but
acknowledged the Americans were a deeper team in the days of
Sampras and Agassi.
"Clearly we don't have that kind of group," he said.
Roddick, who also lost his opening match to Safin, had been
hoping to rally the U.S. from a 2-0 deficit for the first time
since 1934. But the U.S. Open finalist lost his first service game
and then the first two sets before hitting his stride late in the
third -- after winning only three points in Tursunov's first five
service games in the set.
"It never appeared that [Roddick] was ready to give up,"
Tursunov said. "He fought to the finish."
In the 32-game final set, both players survived scares and held
serve until Tursunov netted an easy forehand to go down 30-40 in
the 11th game. He saved one break point, but then hit two shots
wide to lose the game.
Tursunov then broke back to even it at 6-6 when Roddick sent a
return wide after saving one break point. The players again traded
service until Roddick netted a forehand slice to give Tursunov his
fourth match point, and the Russian sent a backhand down the line.
Tursunov, who was knocked out of the U.S. Open in the third
round and struggled in Saturday's doubles, was an unexpected pick
for Tarpishchev. The coach said he had been planning to go with
fifth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko, but he wasn't ready after
withdrawing from the China Open last weekend with dizziness.
"We just got lucky today," Tarpishchev said.
On Friday, Safin defeated Roddick 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) and Mikhail
Youzhny beat Blake 7-5, 1-6, 6-1, 7-5. Twins Bob and Mike Bryan
beat Youzhny and Tursunov 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in doubles on Saturday to
keep the Americans alive.
The semifinal was played at the same venue where Sampras won all
three of his matches on clay in 1995 to help the U.S. capture its
31st and most recent Davis Cup title. Russia, which had never
beaten the U.S., is unbeaten at home since losing that final.
"We're going to have to figure out how to get past the
away-tie-on-clay roadblock," Roddick said. "And, more
specifically, I'm going to have to figure it out."
In qualifying play for 2007, Roger Federer won his third match
in three days to lead Switzerland past Serbia 4-1 to keep the Swiss
in the World Group. Rafael Nadal beat Filippo Volandri in four sets
to give Spain a spot in the World Group with a 4-1 win over Italy.
Other playoff winners were: Austria, Belgium, the Czech
Republic, Germany and Romania.