Russia wins the doubles to take the lead

Feb 09, 2002, Olympic Stadium, Moscow, RUS, by Jo Sirman

Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov defeated Marc Rosset and Roger Federer in Saturday's doubles to take a 2-1 lead in Russia's first round tie with Switzerland. The Russian pair missed four match points in the third set then survived a lapse in the tiebreak which followed before finally claiming a 62 76(6) 67(0) 62 victory and the vital advantage going into the last day.

The Swiss had a number of opportunities to get back into the match, the first of which came in the second set tiebreak when they pulled back from a 5-1 deficit to level at 5-5. They were unable to get ahead however, and a Rosset double fault proved costly. Having saved match points with Rosset serving at 5-4 in the third set, and going on to win the tiebreak convincingly, the visitors were then broken twice within the first three games of the fourth set and missed opportunities to break back at 41 and 52.

Safin in particular looked much sharper than he had during his singles loss on Friday. "I was nervous at the start, but then it worked well for us. We played well in the first two sets, and had a chance to win the third set. I think we played brilliantly in the fourth." Kafelnikov was pleased with the result and is feeling much more confident now about his country's chances of reaching the quarterfinals.

It was a disappointing result for the Swiss, but although unhappy at the outcome of Saturday's match, Federer said, "I still think we played really well today." It was his first loss in Davis Cup doubles. Federer must now defeat Kafelnikov in the first of Sunday's reverse singles matches for Switzerland to stand any chance of winning in Moscow.

Russia started convincingly, breaking Federer's serve in the very first game as both Federer and Rosset missed easy volleys. With the 8,000 Russian fans - including Boris Yeltsin - getting behind their team much more loudly than on Friday, and the home bench waving a large Russian flag, Kafelnikov and Safin were inspired to another break four games later, again on Federer's serve, set up with a great Safin forehand sent down the line. The balance had changed from Friday's opening singles match, with Safin a better player than Federer, who struggled at the net early on. Kafelnikov resisted a breakpoint on his serve to win the first set 62.

Some accurate and unreturnable first serves from Safin got him out of trouble at 15-40 in the second game of the second set, but the Swiss broke the Russian No. 2's serve for a 4-2 lead. To the delight of the fans, Safin and Kafelnikov immediately broke back for 4-3, and with the Swiss unable to convert another break point in Safin's next service game a tiebreak followed. Having clawed their way back into contention from 5-1 down, Rosset and Federer lost the breaker 8-6, a replayed point that had originally looked like going in Rosset's favour giving Russia the second set.

The nations traded breaks again in the third set, but at 54 and 15-40 on Rosset's serve the Russians were unable to close out the match, failing to convert four match points as the visitors stood firm before running away with the tiebreak 7-0.

Safin and Kafelnikov jumped to a 4-0 lead in the fourth set, and despite some plucky play, particularly from Federer who lifted his game whilst on court, the visitors were unable to claw back either of the two breaks. In the end Safin served out the match, the Swiss saving a further match point before Russia claimed victory 62 76(6) 67(0) 62.

"We shouldn't have lost a 4-2 lead in the third set, and should never have been playing the tiebreaker, where we gave away the initiative to our adversaries", Kafelnikov admitted. However the Russians have regained their confidence in Moscow and are looking forward to Sunday. "All the components are important but the man with the stronger will will win" says the Russian No. 1.