Wawrinka routs Blake, sends Swiss into lead over US

Wawrinka routs Blake, sends Swiss into lead over USBirmingham, Alabama  - James Blake crumbled under serving pressure as Stan Wawrinka handed Switzerland the 1-0 lead over the heavily favoured US on Friday in their Davis Cup World Group first round.

The 16th-ranked Swiss fought back in three hours to secure a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) win against Blake, whose game has been off the boil for six months.

"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."

Andy Roddick was charged with trying to lift the 32-times champion back into contention as he faced 341st ranked Marco Chiudinelli, playing for the first time in an away tie.

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.

"It depends how the tie goes, how long the matches are, and who plays on what days."

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.

As a result, the country's second-tier players have so far failed to attract a huge crowd to Buenos Aires.

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 was aiming to complete a sweep as he faced Dutch newcomer Thiemo de Bakker.

Argentina are playing under a new captain, Modesto Vazquez, who replaced Alberto Mancini after December's 3-1 finals loss to Spain, in which Fernando Verdaso played the hero's role in the injury absence of Rafael Nadal.

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 were going to battle behind closed doors due to security concerns in Malmo about anti-Israeli protests after visa dramas at Dubai this month for Israeli players.

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)