Tennis: Germans serve up double trouble

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The Independent Online
WHILE the British continue their struggle in the lesser echelons of the Davis Cup today, Germany's defence of their title may hang on one of the biggest singles showdowns of the weekend. Michael Stich plays Sergi Bruguera: both won their singles matches on Friday, the grass surface in Halle favours Stich and current form favours Bruguera.

However, after Germany's 6-3 7-6 6-2 win in yesterday's doubles tie, the match is set in the Germans' favour. Bruguera had very little to do with Spain's defeat yesterday, as Stich and Karsten Braasch directed the whole match through Tomas Carbonell, Bruguera's partner. The German team had picked up on Carbonell's weaknesses when they faced Spain at the World Team Cup earlier this year and yesterday they launched attacks on his every service game. Under such constant pressure, Carbonell had his serve broken three times, and he double-faulted in the second-set tie-break to cost Spain the set.

The Germans' selection of Halle's grass was always intended to trouble the Spaniards, who are clay-court specialists, but the visitors also found themselves having trouble with the unorthodox style of Braasch. The 27-year-old left- hander irritated his opponents with a lunging serve and a habit of switching sides unexpectedly at the net, and he was so effective that he drew roars of approval from the German crowd.

In Cannes yesterday, Sweden went 2-1 up when Jan Apell and Jonas Bjorkman defeated the French pairing of Olivier Delaitre and Jean-Philippe Fleurian 6-1 6-4 6-4. Stefan Edberg, the Swedish No 1, is favoured to seal victory in the match in today's singles against Cedric Pioline.

In Rotterdam, the quarter- final tie between the United States and Holland stood at 2-1 in the Americans' favour after the Dutch pair of Paul Haarhuis and Jacco Eltingh beat Jared Palmer and Richey Reneberg in the doubles yesterday. On Friday, the Americans had established a healthy lead when Pete Sampras and Jim Courier had cruised past Eltingh and Richard Krajicek with little noticeable trouble. Sampras had Eltingh beaten in just 1hr 21 min. 'I couldn't have played better, it was almost a perfect performance,' he said, in almost a carbon copy of the soundbite he produced after his quarter-final victory over Michael Chang at Wimbledon.

Petr Korda and Cyril Suk overturned a 5-4 final-set deficit to win the doubles and give the Czech Republic a 2-1 lead over Russia in St Petersburg. 'We weren't too confident early on but we prepared like beasts,' said Korda.

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario yesterday beat Conchita Martinez, her Spanish team-mate, to win the Prague Open women's clay- court championship. Sanchez Vicario, who won the final 6-2 6-7 6-3, now joins up with the Wimbledon champion for Spain's defence of the Federation Cup in Frankfurt next week.