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Blake, Martin keep US hopes alive

Paris, Sept. 21 (Reuters): A gamble by captain Patrick McEnroe to play James Blake in Saturday’s doubles triggered a 2-6, 7-6 (6-2), 2-6 6-4 6-4 win over champions France and kept alive US hopes of their first Davis Cup final in five years.

Blake and Todd Martin won a thriller, beating Mickael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro in three-hours, 16-minutes.

Mardy Fish was originally named to partner Martin. But an hour before the match McEnroe decided to use Blake, who had lost his singles on the opening day to Sebastien Grosjean to give France a 2-0 lead.

In Moscow, Lukas Arnold and David Nalbandian handed Argentina a life line in their semi-final against Russia by outlasting Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in a 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 19-17 marathon on Saturday.

The match, six hours and 20 minutes long, was the longest doubles match in Davis Cup history and just two minutes short of the longest Cup encounter ever — a singles match between John McEnroe and Mats Wilander in 1982.

The Argentines finally clinched victory by breaking Kafelnikov’s serve in the 36th game of the fifth set, which lasted for three hours and six minutes.

WORLD GROUP QUALIFYING

In Casablanca: Switzerland lead Morocco 2-1 (Younes El Aynaoui abd Karim Alami lost to Roger Federer and George Bastl 4-6, 1-6, 4-6. On Friday: El Aynaoui bt Michel Kratchovil 7-5, 6-2, 6-2; Hicham Arazi lost to Federer 3-6, 2-6, 1-6).

In Harare: Belgium lead Zimbabwe 2-1 (Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett bt Gilles Elsneer and Tom Vanhoudt 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3. On Friday: Wayne lost to Xavier Malisse 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 3-6; Byron Black lost to Olivier Rochus 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 2-6, 3-6).

In Birmingham: Britain lead Thailand 2-1 (Tim Henman and Miles Maclagan bt Danai Udomchoke and Paradorn Srichaphan 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. On Friday: Henman bt Udomchoke 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; Martin Lee lost to Srichaphan 0-6, 6-7 (2-7), 2-6).

In Turku: The Netherlands lead Finland 3-0 (Tuomas Ketola and Jarkko Nieminen lost to Paul Haarhuis and Sjeng Schalken 1-6, 4-6, 4-6. On Friday: Nieminen lost to Raemon Sluiter 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 0-6, 6-7 (8-10); Ketola lost to Schalken 6-7 (13-15), 3-6, 3-6).

In Karlsruhe: Germany lead Venezuela 3-0 (David Prinosil and Nicolas Kiefer bt Jose de Armas and Jimy Szymanski 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. On Friday: Schuettler beat De Armas 6-1, 6-1, 6-1; Tommy Haas beat Szymanski 6-1, 6-2, 6-1).

In Rio de Janeiro: Brazil lead Canada 2-0 (Fernando Meligeni bt Frank Dancevic 6-2, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5; Gustavo Kuerten bt Daniel Nestor 6-4, 7-6 (12-10), 6-0).

In Presov: Slovakia 1 Romania 1 (Dominik Hrbaty bt Adrian Voinea 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; Karol Kucera lost to Andrei Pavel 0-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6).

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