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Old 02-09-2003, 11:24 PM   #12
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Feb 7, 2003 1-1 after 2nd match

Youzhny Ensures Tie is Level Overnight

Mikhail Youzhny is becoming something of a five-set specialist. The 22-year-old Russian has played in six so far in his career and won five, his most recent victory coming against Czech Radek Stepanek in the second match of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas 2003 World Group first round tie between Czech Republic and Russia in Ostrava - 36 76(8) 67(6) 62 63.

At the end of the first day the score in Ostrava is tied at 1-1, Jiri Novak winning the day’s opening singles match against Nikolay Davydenko.

Stepanek had a great start in his Davis Cup debut in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. He lead 3-0 in the first set and had a breakpoint for 4-0 against Youzhny, the hero of last year's final in Paris-Bercy. The break of serve by the Czech No. 2 in the second game of the first set was, however, one of just two for Stepanek in the whole match which lasted four hours and 15 minutes. It wasn't enough.

"I felt pretty comfortable on the court in the fourth and fifth set having a lot of confidence," Youzhny said. Immediately after the match Stepanek could barely find the words to explain his loss. "I am sorry. I am not sad, but I know that I had some chances," he said after one of the longest matches of his career.

Stepanek won the first set but the 20-year-old Russian set up a 3-0 lead at the beginning of the second. The Czech No. 2, four years older than his opponent and ranked 55 on the ATP Entry Ranking, fought back to level the set at 3-3 and despite also leading in the tie-break failed to take a set point, eventually losing the tie-break 10-8.

"This was one of the most important points of the match. I tried to focus on the tie-break although I was 0-4 down," Youzhny said. Tie-break drama also resolved the third set – the home player supported by a noisy crowd turning the tables on Youzhny.

Ultimately, success for the younger but more experienced Youzhny was built on more aggressive play in final two sets. The Russian started to use his good serve and strong backhand more and more and Stepanek didn't have an answer to it. "I knew the best parts of his game were his movement and his backhand. I tried to attack some of his backhands but I wasn't successful enough. "I was little bit afraid to take the risk," Stepanek said afterwards.

With the tie now level at 1-1 the decision as to whether Russia can continue to defend last year's title will be made on Sunday. In tomorrow’s programme Czech pair Martin Damm and Cyril Suk will take on Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Youzhny in the doubles. After today’s marathon five-setter much will depend on how Youzhny recovers overnight. "Radek played his best tennis on this surface and I can probably thank him that he made Youzhny tired for Saturday's doubles," joked Czech captain Robert Krechler.
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