Roddick responds to pull US level with Swiss

Roddick responds to pull US level with SwissBirmingham, Alabama  - Andy Roddick stepped in to clean up the mess left by James Blake's loss, pulling the 32-time champion US level 1-1 with Switzerland on day one of their Davis Cup World Group tie on Friday.

The top American crushed Marco Chiudinelli 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) to restore order to a tie in which the hosts were installed as heavy favourites due to the absence of Roger Federer across the net.

The American won his 30th Davis Cup match, trying him with Andre Agassi on all-time second. "We have one point, now we need to get to three on Sunday," said the number 6. "The crowd really helped me through the third set."

Blake crumbled under serving pressure, losing to Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

It was Blake's first Davis appearance in a year after luring himself out of last autumn's ruling loss to Spain in Madrid.

"I feel bad about letting the team down," said Blake. "But the team has picked me up many times before. After I beat myself up for a few more hours, I'll be ready to play on Sunday."

Blake said that the 20 aces from Wawrinka made all the difference, with his own effort not aided by 61 unforced errors.

"He served a lot better after the first set," said Blake. "And my serve got more erratic."

Wawrinka, who won Beijing Olympic doubles gold with absent teammate Roger Federer, was pleased to have come through.

"I served very well, it was a tough first match for us. I'm really glad to win this one."

In Romania, Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny put Russia into quick 2-0 command through opening-day singles wins.

Safin, playing in what he says is his last season as a professional, began with a victory over Victor Crivoi 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4. Youzhny won his first match since mid-February as he defeated Victor Hanescu 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

"I won but I'm not totally pleased with my game," two-time Grand Slam winner Safin. "The surface was a bit too fast for me, the balls were flying too much."

Play between champion Spain and Serbia was delayed until Saturday after storms on the Costa Blanca damaged temporary stands erected for the clay clash.

It's now a race against time with ATP Masters 1000 competition starting at midweek at Indian Wells, California. "The players want to finish on Sunday, they have to leave for Indian Wells," said new Spanish skipper Albert Costa.

In Argentina, scene of last year's final just three months ago, crowds and enthusiasm were well down in a tie missing both of the country's top two players, Juan Del Potro and Davis Nalbandian.

Del Potro opted out over an apparent personality clash with Nalbandian, who eventually had to withdraw himself form consideration with a virus.

Barely 1,000 fans fronted up in a 14,000-capacity hall as number 159 Juan Chela put the host nation into 1-0 command over the Netherlands as he beat Jesse Huta Galang
6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2.

Juan Monaco beat Thiemo de Bakker, 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) for 2-0 to the hosts.

Austria stand level with Germany 1-1 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen after Austrian Stefan Koubek beat Rainer Schuettler 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 in three and a half hours and Philip Kohlschreiber got it back in five sets over Jurgen Melzer.

Sweden and Israel played behind closed doors with anti-Israeli protests outside the stadium due to security concerns in Malmo.

Supporters of the Swedish section of the pro-Palestinian group International Solidarity Movement were among the first to gather Friday morning near the Baltic Hall arena.

Some 20 demonstrators unfurled banners and a Palestinian flag, and a few played an improvised tennis match with toy plastic rackets.

Thomas Johansson marked his return from injury after last playing in early October as he won a four-hour marathon over Harel Levy 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 to give Sweden the 1-0 lead.

Dudi Sela pulled the visitors level, outlasting Andreas Vinciguerra 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 11-9.

In other ties, France and the Czech Republic stood 1-1 and Croatia led Chile 2-0. (dpa)