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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Duo Eager for Semis

Russia's big-hitting duo of Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, looking stronger with each Davis Cup tie they play, are relishing the prospect of a semifinal clash at home against Argentina.

The Russians, who swept past seven-time champion Sweden in the first three matches of their weekend tie to clinch a semifinal berth with a day to spare, will now face the Argentine clay-courters in September.

"Fate has smiled on us ... and we will be playing the Argentines at home once again. With them it is vital to play on a fast surface ... the faster the court, the greater our advantage will be," team captain Shamil Tarpishchev told a news conference.

"I think our opponents are a serious team, but the Latin Americans are weaker than the Swedes, so our chances of reaching the final are good," Itar-Tass quoted him as saying.

The Russians, currently sixth in the Davis Cup rankings, were twice finalists in the 1990s. Argentina will be playing in its first semifinal since 1990.

The Russians cruised through Friday's singles matches on clay in straight sets, barely batting an eyelid at the challenge of Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson and teammate Thomas Enqvist.

They were pushed to five sets in their Saturday doubles match, but secured a hard-won victory to take the tie.

"They were Yevgeny and Marat's best games of the last three years," the Kommersant daily quoted Tarpishchev as saying.

In contrast, Argentina kept its fans on tenterhooks until the fifth and final match of the tie before finally beating an under-strength Croatia 3-2.

"Safin and Kafelnikov -- both former world number ones and Grand Slam winners -- should beat the Argentines on the basis of experience and class," Tarpishchev told the news conference.

Davis Cup teammate Andrei Stoliarov said the combination of the home advantage and Safin and Kafelnikov's current form would make them hard to beat.

"The way Marat and Yevgeny played this week no team had a chance of beating them. I think we have a strong chance of winning [the Davis Cup], because regardless of the teams we play we will play at home and that is a great advantage," he said.

Kafelnikov, 28, also has another strong motivating factor. He has said he plans to retire from tennis if Russia secures its first ever taste of Davis Cup glory.

"You think I'm joking about retiring from tennis, but I'm serious," he said after the doubles match Saturday.

Davis Cup champions France will host the United States in the other semifinal.

Looking ahead, Tarpischev said it was likely the Americans would win that tie and a final against them would best be played on a "slow" surface.

"They are the best servers in the world, therefore it will be necessary to take that advantage away from them," he said.