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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Australia Takes Control in Davis Cup




BRISBANE, Australia -- Defending champion Australia grabbed a 2-0 lead Friday in the Davis Cup semifinal against Brazil on a day when almost nothing went right for the visitors.


Wimbledon finalist Pat Rafter outgunned French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten 6-3, 6-2, 6-3, and then Lleyton Hewitt beat Fernando Meligeni 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 as Australia took control of the best-of-five match semi.


In a demonstration of his frustration at some close line calls, Meligeni dropped to the ground and then performed a perfect headstand in backcourt to protest a fault call on his serve late in the third set.


"There was a lot of close calls f I was disappointed," said the Brazilian No. 2, adding that he thought the ball was "150 percent in."


Adding to Brazil's problems, dual French Open titlist Kuerten aggravated a groin injury and said he was in doubt for Saturday's must-win doubles clash and possibly Sunday's reverse singles.


Brazil captain Ricardo Acioly said his team had come too far to give up without a fight.


"We've got our backs to the wall, we have no option but to win the doubles or the reverse singles count for nothing," he said.


Acioly said he was unsure about the extent of Kuerten's injury and would make an assessment before naming a replacement to partner Jaime Oncins in the doubles.


Australian captain John Newcombe said he'd stick with Sandon Stolle to join Wimbledon doubles champion Mark Woodforde to give Rafter a break "in case something goes wrong and we need him for the last game Sunday."


Stolle, a late replacement for the injured Mark Philippoussis, has lost all three Davis Cup doubles matches he's contested and has a 0-9 win-loss record in doubles finals this season.


Newcombe, who guided the Australians to a 27th Davis Cup title with a grand final win against France in Nice last year, said making back-to-back finals was no formality despite the 2-0 buffer.


"When you start talking about Davis Cup being a formality, you're in trouble," he said.


Hewitt said Rafter's win had set a tone for the weekend.


"The pressure was off after Pat went out and did the job on Kuerten," he said.


Rafter broke Kuerten once in the first set and twice in each of the second and third sets to clinch the opening singles match in 81 minutes.


Despite the long-haul flight back from England earlier in the week and a lack of practice on the makeshift grass courts at ANZ Stadium, Rafter continued the brilliant serve-volley form that got him through Wimbledon.


"I really wanted to get off to a great start f when you're on a bit of a roll, you want to keep it going," Rafter said. "The luck is going my way and the wins are going my way."


"I tell you what, it's great to be home," added Rafter, who missed the Davis Cup win against Russia in Brisbane and the triumph against France because he was rehabilitating from surgery.


Kuerten admitted he'd been outplayed but said his injury made no difference to the result.


A clay-court specialist, Kuerten struggled on the grass, dropping serve in the fourth game of the first set.


Rafter broke in the fifth and seventh games of the second set before firing successive aces to bring up set point and serve out for a 2-0 lead.


In the third, he broke in the third game and then, at 5-3, took Kuerten's serve to love to give Australia a 1-0 lead.


In the later match, Meligeni and Hewitt traded breaks before the Australian No. 1 took control with some precision ground strokes.


Hewitt broke Meligeni's opening two service games of the second set and then clinched the match with another break of serve, capping the effort with a classic forehand winner down the line.