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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin Inspires Russia to Cup Win

Australian Open runner-up Marat Safin struggled through Michel Kratochvil in the second reverse singles match Sunday to give Russia a 3-2 first-round victory over Switzerland in Davis Cup World Group play.

Safin, No. 7 in the ATP Tour rankings, won 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 on clay at the Olimpiisky Sports Complex.

Russia was one step away from the victory, leading 2-1 after Saturday's doubles, when Switzerland's No. 1 Roger Federer whitewashed Yevgeny Kafelnikov in Sunday's first reverse singles to level the tie 2-2. The 20-year-old Federer posted a straight-sets victory 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 6-1 to hand Kafelnikov, a five-time Kremlin Cup winner, his first loss in Moscow since July 1999, when he lost to Karol Kuchera in the Davis Cup World Group qualifier against Slovakia.

The Swiss broke Russia's No. 1 in the opening game of the first set, but Kafelnikov equalized in the fourth game and both players held their serve to decide the set on a tiebreaker.

Down 2-6 on a tiebreaker, Kafelnikov won four consecutive points to equalize 6-6, but then double-faulted, and Federer served to win the tiebreaker and the set.

Federer, the winner of the Hopman Cup this year and a finalist at the Milan Indoor last Sunday, needed just 17 minutes to go 5-0 in the second set and fired his 12th ace to close it in 22 minutes for a convincing 2-0 lead. The third set was no different -- the same one-way traffic game -- but just five minutes longer.

Federer fired 15 aces to Kafelnikov's nine. The Russian made seven double faults.

"For me personally, it was great tennis this weekend," Federer said. "I hope next year we will reach the semifinals or even finals."

Supported by a sellout crowd of 14,000, Safin met no resistance from his opponent in the first set, winning five games in a row to close it in 22 minutes.

Down 1-4 and 30-40 in the second set, the Russian saved a break point with a leaping volley to break Kratochvil back in the next game and force a tiebreaker.

He capitalized on the Swiss's unforced mistakes to prevail on a tiebreaker and take a 2-0 lead.

The third set saw the same scenario -- Safin was broken in the third game. He fought back in the eighth game and jumped to a 40-15 lead in the 10th game on Kratochvil's serve.

"It was really difficult in the end," Safin said. "I was nervous. I really didn't want to lose in front of the home crowd."

It was Safin's third decisive victory in the Davis Cup competition. In 1999 he beat Nicolas Kiefer to help Russia into the second round and defeated Dominik Hrbaty in the quarterfinals before Russia lost to Australia in the semifinals.

On Saturday, Safin and Kafelnikov paired up to beat Federer and Marc Rosset 6-2, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2.

In other Davis Cup action, Sweden beat Britain 3-2 as Thomas Enqvist beat Tim Henman 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 and Thomas Johansson downed Greg Rusedski 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

In France, Sebastien Grosjean survived a tough challenge from Sjeng Schalken on Sunday to give France an unbeatable 3-1 lead over the Netherlands in their Davis Cup world group first round tie while Argentina moved into the quarter finals, beating Australia 3-0.

The rookie doubles team of James Blake and Mardy Fish overcame Slovakia's Jan Kroslak and Karol Beck 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 to give the United States a winning 3-0 lead while Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic beat Nicolas Kiefer 7-6, 6-4 in the second reverse singles to complete a 4-1 victory over Germany.

(AP, Reuters)