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Ferrero puts Spain in front in Seville reuters
Juan Carlos Ferrero made short work of Belgiumís Christophe Rochus to claim a 63 62 75 victory on a bitterly cold morning in Seville on Friday and get Spainís 2003 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas campaign off to a perfect start.
Ferrero took the first two sets in just 55 minutes with some dashing tennis from the back of a slow outdoor clay court and while the third set proved more troublesome, Rochus missing one set point, the world number three completed the win in one hour 45 minutes.
Rochus, surprisingly chosen for the singles ahead of his higher-ranked brother Olivier, did manage to cause Ferrero some problems briefly at the start and again at the end of the match.
The 24-year-old Belgian took Ferrero to deuce on his opening service game and again in game five, upsetting the Spaniardís rhythm with a couple of astute drop shots.
Rochus was unable to keep up the pressure, however, as Ferrero began to find the sort of form that took him through to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open earlier this year.
His first real chance came in the sixth game, when Rochus fought back from 0-30 down only to slice a forehand well wide and hand his opponent a break point.
Ferrero looked to have missed the opportunity as Rochus ran him round the court but the Spaniard managed to reach a deep put-away and produced a lob that the Belgian missed high to his backhand.
That gave Ferrero a 4-2 lead and he made no mistakes in keeping hold of that advantage to take the set in 31 minutes.
Ferrero broke immediately at the start of the second set and seemed anxious to get the job done quickly as he improved that to 4-1.
Rochus got a break back in the next but two arrowed Ferrero forehands took him 5-2 up and he clinched the second set in a brisk 24 minutes.
Rochus played his best tennis in the third set and his persistence finally paid off in game six as he got his nose in front for the first time with a 4-2 lead. He then consolidated for 5-2 with an emphatic love service game.
Ferrero held his nerve to stay in the set in game eight and was rewarded in the next, the Belgian putting a simple overhead into the net to hand his opponent a chance to get the break back.
Ferrero then saved a set point in game 10, managing to return a Rochus smash back down the line for an unlikely winner before getting back level at 5-5. With the crowd now stamping their feet and cheering he moved 6-5 ahead with a break.
Rochus was still fighting and he forced three deuces as he attempted to stay in the match in game 12 but eventually he put a limp crosscourt backhand into the net to give Ferrero the third set in 50 minutes.
Spain have their sights set firmly on a repeat of their 2000 Davis Cup triumph and they have an immensely strong clay-court line-up at their disposal for this first round tie.
To bring the scores back level, Belgiumís number one player Xavier Malisse will have to beat Carlos Moya, the former French Open champion, in the second singles later on Friday.
Spain can then call on Albert Costa and Alex Corretja for the doubles on Saturday, when they are scheduled to meet Olivier Rochus and Kristof Vliegen. The reverse singles are set for Sunday.
VAMOS, ALEX Y ALBERT!!! DON'T FORGET THE ARANTXA HOMMAGE SAT.