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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Swedes Sweep Russians in Davis Cup Opener

In the most breathtaking and tenacious tennis ever seen on Russian soil, the Swedish Davis Cup team took a 2-0 lead Friday in the best-of-five finals after two dramatic come-from-behind bids by the home side fell short in five sets each.


Stefan Edberg saved a match point to earn a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-2), 6-0, 8-6 win over Alexander Volkov in the first match of the day at Moscow's Olympic Sports Center. Magnus Larsson followed with a near carbon-copy win over Russia's top player, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 6-0, 6-2, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3.


The two victories give Sweden a commanding lead going into Saturday's doubles match, pitting world doubles champions Jan Appell and Jonas Bjorkman against Kafelnikov and Andrei Olkhovskiy. On Sunday, Kafelnikov plays Edberg and Volkov plays Larsson.


Russia will need to win all three matches if it is to become the first unseeded team to capture the 94-year-old Davis Cup trophy.


Kafelnikov said he felt "mental and psychological pressure" after Volkov's defeat, adding that he injured his left wrist in the second game of the crucial final set, which weakened the spin on his groundstrokes.If Kafelnikov cannot play in the doubles match, alternate Andrei Cherkasov is likely to take his place.


With less than impeccable timing, Russian President Boris Yeltsin -- a well-known tennis aficionado -- entered the stands just after Edberg had clawed back from match point on Volkov's serve to break the Russian and tie the fifth set at 5-5. Yeltsin's appearance caused a three-minute delay when a break was not scheduled.


"Maybe I should thank Boris for coming in," Edberg, the world's seventh-ranked player, joked after the three-hour, 32-minute match. "It actually gave me some extra time to recover."


Yeltsin's entry "mattered as much as rain outside," Volkov said. "By that time I'd lost my serve. I felt I was losing."


The capacity crowd of more than 13,000 came to life during the comebacks of both Russians, but all its foot-stomping, whistling and flag-waving could not derail the visitors.


In the end Friday, it seemed as much a matter of cool nerves -- Edberg played in six Davis Cup finals in the 1980s -- as skill that allowed the Swedes to prevail.


After winning the fourth set at love and opening the fifth with a break, "I lost my concentration a little bit," Volkov, ranked 25th in the world, said after the match. "Of course [Edberg] is a very experienced player. He felt it and used it."


World No. 11 Kafelnikov opened flat against Larsson, ranked 19th. The Swede stormed through the first two sets before making a string of mistakes that let the Russian back in the match.


While Kafelnikov's rally stirred the hearts, souls and vocal chords of the crowd, Larsson gained an early break in the fifth set and held on, 6-3. Kafelnikov saved two match points but then a strong service winner gave the Swede -- who notched 26 aces -- the victory.


At first, Friday's opening match looked like it would be a runaway as Edberg jumped out to a quick two-set lead. Volkov said Edberg surprised him by serving to the left corner of the service box rather than the right and center.


By the third set, Volkov had adjusted. As Edberg turned up the heat on his groundstrokes and charged the net more, Volkov matched him blow for blow, frequently handcuffing the Swede after serve-and-volleys with passing shots down the lines. But after falling behind 1-3 in the final set, Edberg regained his composure by the time Volkov served for the match at 5-4.


The thundering crowd turned eerily silent after Volkov reached match point on a wide Edberg return but the Swede prevented a Russian celebration with a deep backhand down the line.


Edberg capped the match in the 14th and final game with two spectacular topspin lobs -- a forehand and then a backhand that won the match, leaving an outstretched Volkov no chance at net.