David Nalbandian beat Mikhail Youzhny 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday to give Argentina a 3-2 victory over Russia and a place in the Davis Cup semifinals.
Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko had earlier rallied to beat Eduardo Schwank 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in the first reverse singles to make it 2-2 in the five-match series. Argentina had been leading 2-1 thanks to a win in the doubles on Saturday, after the two teams had shared Friday’s opening singles.
But Nalbandian was in convincing form throughout the decisive fifth match of the quarterfinal contest on hard court and was never broken by Youzhny.
Argentina’s win in Moscow ended Russia’s 17-tie winning streak at home since losing to the United States in the 1995 final and lined up a series against France in the semifinals on Sept. 17-19.
Argentina came to Moscow without the injured Juan Martin Del Potro, who is the country’s No. 1, and Juan Monaco, but Nalbandian, who missed much of last season through injury and has been sidelined with a hamstring problem since April, won both his matches in straight sets.
Nalbandian, who beat Davydenko in the opening singles, prevailed in a first-set tiebreaker and broke Youzhny in the ninth game of the second set for a commanding 2-0 lead.
“I’m happy with my playing here but I’m not surprised at all, though I had no official match practice since April,” Nalbandian said. “I know the level of my playing and I did my best to prepare for these matches.”
With an early break in the third set, he was in full control of the match and made sure of Argentina’s victory on his second match point when Youzhny sent a forehand long.
“Russia was clear favorite ahead of the tie with their two top players Davydenko and Youzhny,” Argentina captain Tito Vazquez said.” But luckily David (Nalbandian) played at his top here winning two points for us. Our win in the doubles was also very important. I think we deserved to win.”
Russia also missed injured big-serving players, Igor Andreev and Dmitry Tursunov.
“Our roster is much shorter than Argentina’s,” said Shamil Tarpischev, who captained Russia in his 74th Davis Cup tie, equaling Australia captain Neale Fraser’s record.
“I called up all our best players. I’m sure, the other players could hardly have added strength to our performance this weekend.”
Earlier, Schwank, who impressed Argentina captain Tito Vasquez in Saturday’s win in the doubles, came in for Leonardo Mayer, who was originally nominated for the match.
He opened strongly and broke No.6-ranked Davydenko in the third game before going on to take the first set. The 24-year-old Argentine, who is yet to win a tour title, then broke again in the first game of the second set.
But Davydenko, who recently has been sidelined for three months because of a wrist injury, broke back immediately and gradually found his rhythm. He broke Schwank in the eighth game to draw level 1-1 in sets and completely dominated the third.
“I felt no pressure today after being beaten in my previous matches here,” said Davydenko, who also was defeated alongside Igor Kunitsyn in the doubles. “I had nothing to lose today.”
Both players held their serve in the fourth set until the 10th and ultimately final game when, level at 30-30 on his serve, Schwank netted two easy forehands to lose the match.
“Though I won today, I’m disappointed with my play this weekend,” Davydenko said. “I was playing much better and with more confidence in my previous Davis Cup matches. I was even thinking of withdrawing today.”
Russia has won the title twice, while Argentina reached the final three times but has yet to win.