Despite the better performance of Saturday, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Mikhail Youzhny lost the doubles to Argentina three sets to one and see how the South Americans win the tie. An encouraged Argentine team after Friday's two victories was too much for a weakened Russian team that had its star player, Marat Safin, as a privileged spectator in Buenos Aires.
The Russians started the stronger, as the locals failed too much while serving. Youzhny was very active in the net and Kafelnikov contributed with his experience to obtain the first set 6-3. At the same time, the Argentine couple (David Nalbandian and Lucas Arnold) lost their nerves and could not focus to recover.
However, things were too different in the second set. Argentina took a quick 3-0 advantage that could keep all along the set. For the first time in the morning, the 10,000 supporters began to cheer their players and put pressure over the Russians. Soon, Kafelnikov lost his nerves and smashed his racquet onto the clay, sank to the chair and covered his head in a towel. Since then, his level went down and never calmed down.
In the third set, Kafelnikov's non-forced errors let the Argentineans to take the advantage 5-3. Playing excellent tennis, the Argentine doubles specialist, Lucas Arnold, blocked all Russians efforts to come back to the game and secured the set 6-4.
A frustrated Russian team entered into the court to play the fourth. However, Youzhny and Kafelnikov managed to keep the tie until the sixth game, 3-3. Since then, David Nalbandian showed why he is an ATP's top ten and drove his team to victory 6-3 in the last set. Then, the Argentineans celebrated nosily, as the Russian delegation quietly left the court.
All in all, lack of coordination and an unusual lack of self-confidence in the Russian team were the main reasons why Argentina could easily win the tie in the first two days. To be honest with the team captained by Shamil Tarpeshiev, the absence of Marat Safin frustrated Russia's original plans and made Tarpishev look for alternatives in young players as Davydenko and Youzhny.
Unfortunately, it was not possible to ask Tarpishev about this as he did not show up in the press room, so all the questions went to Mikhail Youzhny, who was not able to answer them. Notwithstanding, Youzhny's words are self-explanatory: "I had no experience playing with Kafelnikov in doubles. If you improvise the results are not good", he said. Then, Youzhny complained about a small injury on his leg and came back to the locker room.
The tie is over now. On Sunday, both teams will play the reverse singles, in which it will not be necessary for Marat Safin to play. It is maybe the only thing that frustrated the enthusiastic local audience: they celebrated Argentina's triumph but could not see Marat Safin playing in Buenos Aires. Maybe next time.
Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina
Photo (AP): The Argentineans celebrate. Smiles and champagne to advance and wait for Spain in semi-finals.