U.S. and Russia Face Difficult Away Semis

APAmerican Andy Roddick stretching to return during his tie-clinching win over France's Paul-Henri Mathieu on Sunday.
LONDON -- Andy Roddick tore through Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu on Sunday to seal the United States' place in the Davis Cup semifinals, after a rare defeat for top-ranked doubles pair Bob and Mike Bryan on Saturday had delayed the Americans' celebrations for 24 hours.

Roddick meant business from the moment he stepped onto the Winston-Salem court, his 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win taking just 97 minutes. He closed out the game with two aces to give the Americans an unbeatable 3-1 lead and a semifinal date with Spain.

"We were a little disappointed after the doubles yesterday but Andy played his heart out today," U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said.

Looking ahead to their next tie in Spain, McEnroe added: "Obviously we'll go as underdogs, we beat them last year so they will want revenge. For us it's the ultimate challenge."

The United States ended 4-1 winners over France after James Blake beat Richard Gasquet in the dead singles rubber 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Spain, the only team to secure a last-four spot on Saturday, also completed a 4-1 win against Germany in Bremen, and felt it had silenced critics who accused it of being poor performers away from home.

"We've got out of this habit of always losing away from home," Spain coach Emilio Sanchez said.

"We've now won twice away from home this year [after a 5-0 win over Peru in the first round] and we have the confidence to show what we can do anywhere."

Russia and Argentina will contest the other semifinal in September after wrapping up their ties with a match to spare.

For the second tie running, Russia benefited from the misfortune of one of its opponents to earn the winning point, after Czech No. 1 Tomas Berdych injured his ankle and was forced to quit midway through the fifth set of his tussle against Nikolai Davydenko.

In February, Russia was gifted its first-round tie when Serbia's Novak Djokovic abruptly retired while leading Davydenko by two sets to one, complaining he felt breathless and dizzy.

In Buenos Aires, David Nalbandian capitalized on an unexpected hold-up in the fourth set to sneak past Sweden's Robin Soderling 6-4 1-6 4-6 6-4 9-7.

The match swung in the Argentine's favor after play was interrupted by a scuffle in the crowd, which led to at least one person being ejected.

Soderling appeared to lose concentration and Nalbandian gathered his wits to complete victory in just over four hours.

"Luckily I was able to turn the game around thanks to the crowd, which helped me in key moments," an emotional Nalbandian, who won all three of his matches over the weekend, told the fans.

Juan Monaco defeated Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-3 to round off a 4-1 win.

///BLOB// Maria Sharapova captured her first clay court title when she defeated Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova 7-6, 6-3 in Sunday's final of the Amelia Island Championships.

Sharapova became the first woman to win three titles this season following her success at the Australian Open and Qatar Open and improved her 2008 win-loss record to 22-1.