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Russia blames 'murderous' calendar for loss as US, Argentina ousted too

RUSSIA'S tennis chief has blamed the "murderous" international calendar for his team's shock defeat by Israel in their Davis Cup quarterfinals.

"The main problem is this murderous calendar," Shamil Tarpishchev, president of the Russian tennis federation, told Russian media following a 1-4 fiasco in Tel Aviv over the weekend.

Tarpishchev, who guided Russia to Davis Cup triumphs in 2002 and 2006, said the timing of the last-eight ties - coming immediately after the gruelling clay and grasscourt seasons - gave top players almost no time to recover.

"This is not only a big problem for us. Just look at the other top teams like US, Spain, Argentina or Germany.

"It seems like every top team was missing their best players," he said, naming American Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick, Spanish world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, Argentina's David Nalb`andian, Germany's Tommy Haas and Croatia's duo of Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic.

The top-ranked Russians were without world No. 11 Nikolay Davydenko and 24th-ranked Dmitry Tursunov, who was forced to pull out after failing to recover from an ankle injury.

"Such scheduling gives smaller teams an unfair advantage," said Tarpishchev. "That's why you see so many upsets."

Davis Cup heavyweights the United States and Argentina were also dumped out by Croatia and the Czech Republic, respectively, while champion Spain squeezed into the semifinals with a 3-2 win over Germany.

However, Tarpishchev gave credit to the Israelis for playing inspired tennis. "I must say the better team won. They were much better prepared and deserved to win."

Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Andreas Beck 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in his first Davis?Cup match in four years.

Spain will take on Israel.

Croatia's Marin Cilic beat James Blake 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 for an insurmountable 3-1 lead, before American doubles specialist Bob Bryan beat Roko Karanusic 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in a meaningless match.

"I think I played a perfect match against Blake," the 20-year-old Cilic said. "This is one of the most important victories in my career."

Croatia had won both opening singles before Bryan and his twin brother Mike won Saturday's doubles to keep the Americans' chances alive.

Croatia will host the Czech Republic in September. The Czechs advanced after Radek Stepanek beat Juan Monaco 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-2 in the deciding match to secure the country's first semifinal appearance since 1996. After converting the match point, Stepanek dropped to the ground in celebration and was embraced by his teammates.

"It's unbelievable," Stepanek said. "And this is not the end. We'll do all we can to get even further. I want to succeed in Davis?Cup so much. We'll fight in Croatia to advance to the final."

Spain also had to wait until the last match to secure its 16th straight home win in the competition. Spain captain Albert Costa replaced Tommy Robredo with Ferrero after Philipp Kohlschreiber had beaten Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-2, 1-6, 2-6, 8-6 to even the contest at the Puerto Banus bullring.

Ferrero, playing his first Davis?Cup match since a World Group playoff win over Italy in 2005, triumphed over his less experienced opponent by converting six of his 10 break points.


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