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Safin wins Davis Cup for Russia

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MOSCOW, Russia -- Former world number one Marat Safin beat Argentina's Jose Acasuso 6-3 3-6 6-3 7-6 in the deciding rubber as Russia won the Davis Cup for the second time on Sunday.

Safin kept his nerve after the home side had been pegged back to two rubbers apiece when David Nalbandian overpowered Nikolay Davydenko 6-2 6-2 4-6 6-4 in the first reverse singles in Moscow.

Safin, who paired with Dmitry Tursunov to win Saturday's pivotal doubles, dropped the second set to Acasuso but took the next two, winning the decisive tiebreak seven points to five.

Victory for the former Australian and U.S. Open champion came after two hours 50 minutes, snapping Russia's losing record in finals at home after losing to Sweden in 1994 and to the United States in 1995.

"I'm happy to win in front of my home fans," Safin said after the match. "It was really hard to win today as I experienced serious problems with the surface as I failed to adjust my playing to the carpet."

"I'm glad I won in four sets. I was sure Nikolay (Davydenko) would win his match but after he lost I was pretty nervous. I also have problems with my heel and knees. I was afraid I could lose the match if I failed to win the tiebreak."

"I'm very happy for all of us and all of our fantastic supporters," he added.

Acasuso was a late replacement for Juan Igacio Chela in the singles, but had lost his three previous meetings with Safin and rarely looked able to break the trend.

Safin, 26, made a fast start, breaking Acasuso's first service game to move ahead 3-0, which proved enough to serve out the first set in 30 minutes.

In the second the 24-year-old Argentine bounced back to break Safin's serve in the sixth game and level at one set all.

Spurred by a capacity 11,000 home crowd Safin's confidence seemed to return in the third set and he broke twice to Acasuso's once to take a 2-1 lead.

The fourth was a tight affair that was finally decided by a tiebreak, with Safin edging it 7-5 after some brilliant back court defense was followed by Acasuso netting a forehand as he moved up the court.

Nalbandian heroics

Earlier, Nalbandian broke Davydenko twice to take the first set, then repeated the feat in the second.

He broke the world number three in the fourth and eighth games to build up a two-set lead.

The Russian finally found a chink in Nalbandian's armor in the ninth game of the third set to break for a 5-4 lead, then saved two break points in the next game to force a fourth set.

It was only a temporary reprieve, as Nalbandian earned a decisive break in the first game and clinched the match at his second attempt, to the wild cheers of several hundred vocal Argentine supporters, including former football's World Cup-winning captain Diego Marathon.

Russia's win is their first at home, following their triumph in 2002 in France, while Argentina were chasing their maiden Davis Cup crown.


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Nalbandian gave Argentina hope with a superb victory over Davydenko.

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