U.S. Loses Opening Tennis Match to Spain

Friday, December 3rd 2004, 8:51 am
By: News On 6

SEVILLE, Spain (AP) _ The United States lost its opening match to Spain in the Davis Cup final Friday when Carlos Moya defeated Mardy Fish 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 on the slow, red clay courts where the Spaniards are so strong.

The United States has not won the Davis Cup since 1995 and is trying to take the team tennis title a record 32nd time. Spain is going for its second championship.

Andy Roddick tried to even the best-of-five series for the Americans in the second match against 18-year-old left-hander Rafael Nadal. Doubles is Saturday, with two singles matches the following day.

Moya fell behind 3-0 in the first set but came back and broke Fish twice to take the set in 40 minutes. He broke again in the first game of the second, setting the tone as he swept through Fish in 34 minutes and completing the victory in 1 hour, 57 minutes.

The Olympic Stadium crowd, expected to reach 26,600 and set a record for a sanctioned tennis match, was a blanket of red and yellow with fans wrapped in overcoats and some sitting under umbrellas on a cold, rainy day in southern Spain. The court is undercover, but fringe areas are exposed to the open air.

A free-swinging left-hander, Nadal was picked ahead of former No. 1-ranked and 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. Roddick swept Nadal in their only meeting 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 three months ago in the second round of the U.S. Open. If he wins, Nadal would become the youngest player to win in a Davis Cup final.

In Saturday's doubles, American twins Bob and Mike Bryan should have the edge over Nadal and Tommy Robredo. In Sunday's reverse singles, Moya is to face Roddick, followed by Nadal vs. Fish. Ferrero, slowed by a blister on his right hand, could be substituted for Nadal on Sunday.

At No. 51, Nadal is Spain's lowest-ranked player, but he's been a clutch Davis Cup star. He won the deciding fifth match against the Czech Republic in February. As a late replacement for Moya, he won the clinching match in the semifinals against France.

Ferrero has battled chickenpox and broken ribs in the worst season of his career. He's the only player back from the 2000 final when Spain won its only Davis Cup, beating Australia in Barcelona.

Spain has won 11 straight Davis Cup matches at home. The last time the Americans played in Spain on clay was in 2000, when a team led by Todd Martin was routed 5-0. The Americans also lost to France 3-2 on clay two years ago in the semifinals.

Roddick is 12-0 against all members of the Spanish team, but only one win was on clay. He's 14-3 in the Davis Cup and hasn't lost a set this season.