Aussies set to welcome Argentina to grass court
March 6, 2005 - 6:45PM
Revenge is on the agenda after Australia today set up a potentially spiteful Davis Cup quarter-final against Argentina in July.
Todd Woodbridge and rookie teenager Chris Guccione completed a 5-0 whitewash of Austria with victories in the two dead singles rubbers on the portable grasscourt at the Sydney International Tennis Centre.
With Lleyton Hewitt and Wayne Arthurs enjoying a day off after helping establish an unassailable 3-0 lead in the first-round tie, Woodbridge stepped up to beat Marco Mirnegg 6-3 4-6 7-5 before Guccione debuted with a 6-3 6-4 win over Alexander Peya.
Australia's triumph atoned for a 5-0 humbling at the hands of Austria in Vienna 1989 and confirmed a much-anticipated showdown with Argentina, which will again be contested on grass in Sydney.
If ever there was a country Australia would like to hammer it is Argentina.
Apart from the bad blood between Hewitt and several of the South American contingent at this year's Australian Open, Argentina inflicted a rare 5-0 defeat on an understrength Australia in Buenos Aires in 2002.
Woodbridge, who lost a doubles cliffhanger with Arthurs 10-8 in the fifth set of that first-round claycourt tie, said he couldn't wait for another crack at the Argentines.
He recalls being forced to play the doubles "on probably the wettest claycourt I've played on" and said it was payback time.
"There was torrential rain with no covers on and then we played on it an hour and a half later. And we're going to be throwing that back at them - surface-wise and them coming down here," Woodbridge said.
"They'll be getting everything as much as they dislike as what we got over there."
Australian captain John Fitzgerald was a little more respectful, but admitted "it's a big difference having the home-court advantage".
"But you could never underestimate a team like Argentina. They're probably the second strongest nation in the world in men's tennis now."
Argentina has Guillermo Coria, David Nalbandian, Gaston Gaudio, Guillermo Canas and Juan Ignacio Chela all in the top 25.
Fans will remember Chela spitting towards Hewitt during their fiery third-round clash at the Australian Open and then Nalbandian and Hewitt bumping angrily into each other during a changeover in the quarter-finals.
Nalbandian later bit his tongue and played down the incident, but Canas publicly questioned Hewitt's sportsmanship at Melbourne Park.
There is certain to be no love lost between the two nations when they face off the week after Wimbledon.
Fitzgerald said it was vital Australia had its strongest possible line-up at the ready and was hopeful Mark Philippoussis would be back in the mix, which would relegate Wayne Arthurs to doubles duty only despite his singles heroics in this tie.
"There's four in a team, and what you want ideally is any number of players competing for four spots. That's what's healthy," Fitzgerald said.
"From Mark's point of view, we just hope he can get his body right now and start getting a lot of matches under his belt.
"That would certainly give us an added strength. He's a high-quality player and he likes this surface - and I imagine we'll play on this surface in July, so he brings a lot to the table."
Argentina booked their quarter-final berth by taking a 3-0 lead over the Czech Republic in their first-round tie in Buenos Aires.
The only other nation certain to advance from a weekend of world group fixtures around the globe is the Slovak Republic, which opened up a 3-0 advantage against depleted defending champion Spain.
The Netherlands led Switzerland, which was without world No. 1 Roger Federer, 2-1 overnight. Russia was ahead 2-1 over Chile. Belarus was up 2-1 in Romania. The US and Croatia were locked at 1-1 and France led Sweden 2-1.
typical SMH style.