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U.S. netters advance

Roddick leads charge in pursuit of Davis Cup

Andy Roddick bounced back from a loss Friday to defeat Karol Beck 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in Davis Cup play Sunday.
Andy Roddick bounced back from a loss Friday to defeat Karol Beck 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in Davis Cup play Sunday.
Samo Kubani, Associated Press

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The thumping drums this time were nothing more than background noise for Andy Roddick.

The U.S. Open champion blocked out the din from the Slovak crowd Sunday and kept the United States in the top tier of the Davis Cup. He beat Karol Beck 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, atoning for a loss Friday that left the Americans in trouble.

His clay-court victory clinched the best-of-five World Group playoff, assuring the United States a place among the top 16 teams next season for the Davis Cup.

"I wanted to come out there with a lot of energy," Roddick said. "I tried to play that first match like I played all summer — calm, cool and collected. But I think Davis Cup is a totally different scenario. If you're feeling it, you've got to be jazzed."

Losing the series would have relegated the United States to the second tier for the first time in 15 years, a blow to a nation that's won the Davis Cup a record 31 times.

In the day's final singles, which had no bearing on the outcome, Michal Mertinak defeated Mardy Fish 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, resulting in a 3-2 U.S. victory.

The Americans had lost three straight Davis Cup matches on the road since Patrick McEnroe became captain in 2001 and four straight overall. The last loss was in Croatia in February.

"We're back in it. And we're in it to win it," McEnroe said. "And I think we can."

Elsewhere in the Davis Cup, Australia and Spain reached the final, both winning 3-2. Australia will be home for the Nov. 28-30 final.

Australia beat visiting Switzerland in Melbourne, with Lleyton Hewitt clinching the semifinal in opening singles, rallying from two sets down to beat Wimbledon champion Roger Federer. In Malaga, Spain, Carlos Moya won the final singles after top-ranked Juan Carlos Ferrero was upset by Argentina's Agustin Calleri in straight sets.

Roddick was charged up from the outset before a sellout crowd of 4,200 at the National Tennis Center — talking to himself on the court, his teammates on the bench and, at times, shouting across at Beck.

"I was trying to create a flow," Roddick said. "The other day it was all about the Slovaks and the crowd. I definitely wanted to get on top and impose our energy on the match."

Roddick refused to serve to the drummers' tune as he did Friday when he would wait to serve until the noise subsided.

"I wasn't going to stop for noise," he said. "I was going to play my match and serve my service games the way I wanted to. I let that affect my rhythm the other day."

Roddick, who finished with 16 aces to six for Beck, ended his three-match Davis Cup losing streak — all on clay.

"It was very hard to play him today," Beck said. "He was very motivated and physically very good."

Beck, ranked No. 70, was called on at the last minute Sunday to replace Karol Kucera, who had a hamstring injury.

Twins Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's top-ranked doubles team, gave the United States a 2-1 lead Saturday with a straight-set win over Hrbaty and Beck.

"I just came here knowing we had one match to go and I wanted to be the man to close it out," Roddick said. "I would have felt pretty bad if I would have lost again."

Roddick pounded six aces in the first set. Beck offered some resistance in the second but not enough. On the final two points in the fifth game, Roddick screamed "ooooh" on a crosscourt winner, then belted out a "whoooo" after the winning point.

Roddick broke in the fifth game of the final set, again screaming as he skipped off the court at the changeover, aware Beck could do little against him. Roddick failed to capitalize on a match point in the ninth game, then took the 10th game and won when Beck struck a backhand wide.

"I think we are better than that team that reached the semifinals last year," Roddick said. "I think we'll be disappointed with anything less than winning."

In other World Group playoffs, it was: Austria 3, Belgium 2; Czech Republic 4, Thailand 1; Belarus 3, Germany 2; and Netherlands 5, India 0.