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United States returning to Davis Cup final

Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2004

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) Twins Bob and Mike Bryan led the United States into the final of the Davis Cup for the first time in seven years with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 win Saturday over Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus.

The victory by the Bryans, the world's seventh-ranked doubles team, set off a jubilant celebration at the Family Circle Tennis Center.

The crowd rose and chanted ''USA! USA!'' and members of the American team, who lost only one set in three matches over two days, formed a circle and hugged each other.

Then, holding the flag, they took a victory lap around the stadium.

The Americans face the winner of the weekend's other semifinal between Spain and France. If the Spanish win, they host the finals. The Americans will host if France advances. Spain led 2-1 after Saturday's matches.

The United States has won the Davis Cup a record 31 times. But the Americans last made the finals in 1997 and last won in 1995.

Not since an 11-year gap between 1926 and 1937 has the United States gone longer without winning the Davis Cup.

The Americans built a commanding lead in the semifinals when Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish won singles matches on Friday. During his singles match against Voltchkov, Roddick had a record 155 mph serve.

''It was huge going in there 2-0 and knowing we can go in there and kind of put the hammer down,'' Bob Bryan said. ''It's huge motivation for us.''

Belarus was playing in the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time.

Facing elimination in the best-of-five match competition, Belarus captain Sergei Teterin sent Mirnyi and Voltchkov out to face the Americans. At the Thursday draw, Belarus announced that Mirnyi and Alexander Skrypko, ranked 1,384th in the world in doubles, would play the Americans.

Substituting Voltchkov, on paper, gave Belarus a better chance to extend the competition. He is ranked No. 279 in doubles. Mirnyi is ranked No. 6.

With Voltchkov serving and the Americans up 6-5 in the third set, the game went to deuce. Voltchkov netted a backhand to give the Americans the advantage, then Bob Bryan returned a forehand just beyond Voltchkov's reach to give the Americans the match.

''That was the kind of Bryan brothers doubles I like to see them closing the net off and just a vintage performance,'' said American captain Patrick McEnroe.

Mirnyi and Voltchkov played singles matches on Friday, but Mirnyi said fatigue was not a problem.

''We knew we were facing very difficult opponents and in order for us to win today, we had to do everything we can very well,'' Mirnyi said. ''They just played better than us today and they had quick answers to what we had to present.''

For the Bryan twins, the victory was a bright spot in a disappointing year.

They were the top seed at the Olympics, but were upset in the quarterfinals. The Bryans defeated Mirnyi and Voltchkov 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the Olympic competition.

Later, at the U.S. Open, the Bryans were seeded second but lost in the second round.

''Davis Cup is the best thing you can do in tennis. For us, I consider this a Grand Slam final,'' said Mike Bryan. ''This match, you know, saved our summer. I mean, I feel great now going home.''



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