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Bryan twins give U.S. team a lift

LEUVEN, Belgium — The Bryan twins brought the United States within one win of staying in the elite group of Davis Cup. Now it's up to Andy Roddick, or James Blake, to complete the job against Belgium.

Bob and Mike Bryan won Saturday's doubles 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-3 against Olivier Rochus and the outmatched Kristof Vliegen, giving the Americans a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series entering reverse singles.

"To win the doubles at 1-1 is huge," said U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe. "It gives ourselves a lot of momentum."

On Sunday, Roddick will face 31st-ranked Rochus as he goes for his second singles victory. Rochus will be playing his third match in three days.

"Andy is going to be very motivated to finish it off," McEnroe said. "I feel good about our chances."

If the No. 3-ranked Roddick fails, the series will come down to Blake against Olivier's older brother, Christophe Rochus. The Americans will be relegated from the World Group for the first time in 17 years if they lose both matches.

On Friday, Olivier Rochus beat Blake in straight sets before Roddick did the same to Christophe Rochus. Xavier Malisse, perhaps Belgium's best player, is not on the team because of a dispute.

The U.S., which has won 31 Davis Cup titles, is out of contention this year. The field has been narrowed to the semifinals: Argentina at Slovakia, and Russia at Croatia. Slovakia and Croatia won doubles matches Saturday and lead 2-1.

Russia is the only one of the semifinalists to have won the cup. Argentina is playing its third semifinal in four years. It reached the final only once, losing to the Americans in 1981. Slovakia is in the semis for the first time.

The Bryans, winners at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, justified their No. 1 ranking. They anticipated each other's position and repeatedly put the 130th-ranked Vliegen in trouble, much to McEnroe's pleasure.

"That was Pat's strategy," Bob Bryan said. "That way we will have him stay home the rest of the match."

The Americans raced to a 5-2 lead and Bob Bryan wrapped up the first set with four winning serves.

The match looked over when the Bryans broke early in the second set and led 3-1. However, Vliegen had a brief transformation — his passing shots and volleys instrumental in breaking the Bryans' serve two straight times.

With Mike Bryan serving for the set, Rochus delivered two stinging returns to force a tiebreaker. The oddly matched pair of the 5-foot-5 Rochus and 6-4 Vliegen won 7-2 to delight the 2,500 fans at the Sportsplaza.

"We could have been off that court in 1 1/2 hours," Mike Bryan said. "Well, next time."

Vliegen soon reverted to type and the Bryans kept pounding him for winners to prevail 6-1 in the third. In the fourth, the Bryans again pounced on Vliegen to break twice early on. This time, Mike Bryan had trouble holding serve. He lost one and was trailing love-40 with the score 4-3. The twins fought back, however, and closed out the match.