(E) Ljubicic Gives Croatia 3-1 Davis Cup Win Over U.S.
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Ljubicic Gives Croatia 3-1 Davis Cup Win Over U.S.
ZAGREB Feb 9 (Reuters) - IvanLjubicic gave Croatia an unexpected 3-1 winning lead over the United States intheir Davis Cup world group first-round tie when he beat James Blake, 6-3, 6-7,6-4, 6-3, in the first reverse singles Sunday.
Ljubicic belted down 28 aces as he came from a service break down in thethird set to claim victory in two hours 46 minutes. The victory also makesLjubicic only the ninth player in 252 Davis Cup ties against the U.S. to win allthree live rubbers.
Croatia, in the quarter-finals for only the second time in their shorthistory, face a tough tie away to Spain.
"This is big for me, especially because I won all three matches,"Ljubicic said. "When you are number one, your team mates expect you to winat least two matches, maybe three, so it's a lot of pressure. But I didn't feelone bit of nerves yesterday or today."
Blake was the highest-ranked player in the tie at number 24, but the Ljubicicserve was the dominant weapon of the weekend and he once again used it todevastating affect in a buzzing atmosphere inside Hall Dom Sportiva.
A break in the sixth game gave Ljubicic the first set in 34 minutes, butBlake pinched the second set on a tiebreak 7-5 to level the match.
Ljubicic lost his footing and slipped in the second game of the third set andas he took his time to recover his poise, Blake broke for a 2-1 lead. It was thefirst time the towering Croatian had lost his serve all weekend in 43 servicegames.
But at 4-3, Blakesuddenly lost his way dropped his serve to love. That, Ljubicic, said was theturning point."I think that was the key, because suddenly I won the setwithout really thinking about it, which is good for me," hesaid."James is a great player, but I don't think he played as well from thebaseline as he did Friday."
Having broken Blake in the sixth game of the fourth setfor a 4-2 lead, Ljubicic's nerves looked in danger of fraying when he wasserving for the match just a few moments later.But his serve came to the rescuewhen Blake earned three break back points. Ljubicic held firm and a forehandinto the net from Blake prompted the entire arena to explode in celebration.Theteam had their own bizarre version of expressing their joy by crawling togetheralong the tramlines in formation.
A crestfallen Blake said "I think this probably isthe most emotionally (difficult) defeat to take."I don't think it wasnerves (at 4-3 in the third set), I think I missed an easy volley, he had agreat point and then I missed a forehand. At 0-40, you're bound to get a littletentative."Blake said it had been hard to find his normal rhythm againstLjubicic."He really doesn't let you get in rhythm because he doesn't have asecond serve," Blake said"He has two first serves. If he keeps servinglike that, or getting better like he says he can, then after the indoor season,I think we'll see him in the top 10."