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Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007

Japan hammers Romanians in Davis Cup doubles match


Staff writer

OSAKA — Takao Suzuki and Satoshi Iwabuchi rolled back the years as Japan took a 2-1 lead in its Davis Cup World Group playoff against Romania on Saturday, the doubles pair steamrollering Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau in straight sets.

News photo
Japan's Takao Suzuki reaches out for a volley with his teammates Satoshi Iwabuchi watches during their doubles match against Romania in Davis Cup World Group playoffs on Saturday at Namihaya Dome in Osaka Pref. Japanese pair won 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 for Japan's 2-1 lead. KYODO PHOTO

Suzuki and Iwabuchi, both 31, proved too wily for opponents nine years their younger and forced Mergea and Tecau into countless errors on the way to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Japan is playing host to the Europeans this weekend at Namihaya Dome Main Arena in Osaka in the best-of-five tie and it is the two countries' first-ever tournament meeting.

Japan, led by captain Eiji Takeuchi, is gunning for its first World Group play-off tie victory to enable it to advance to the World Group for the first time since 1985.

Romanian captain Adrian Marcu now has to rouse his troops for the final day Sunday. World No. 216 Suzuki faces world No. 88 Andrei Pavel and Go Soeda takes on 6-foot-6 (198 cm) Victor Hanescu, with play set to start at 1 p.m.

Pavel beat Soeda after Suzuki toppled Hanescu in the opening singles matches Friday.

Suzuki, with his right arm strapped after two tough matches in as many days, was pleased he had Iwabuchi next to him on court Saturday.

"I am very happy that Iwabuchi was my partner today," said Suzuki. "The quality of his game was very good and our focus of breaking early in the sets worked."

Japan broke Romania in the first game of the first and third set and always looked in control against less-experienced opponents. Suzuki closed out the match to love in two hours with some powerful serves to which the Romanians had no answer.

"The first set was very important," said Takeuchi. "Overall it was a very good match for us."

Iwabuchi agreed: "The first set was very important. I felt a responsibility to work hard in the match today because Suzuki played yesterday as well."

The Romanians hit 38 errors, 15 unforced, and although they were usually comfortable on serve — they hit eight aces — they struggled when receiving them.

Romania captain Marcu believed luck played a part in the Japan win.

"I expected it to be tough but the boys didn't start well. The Japan team played very well, with almost no mistakes, but maybe they were a little lucky also. There were a lot of close points all won by them.

"It was a good match but the Japanese played a little better and won."

Mergea was disappointed with the Romanian's slow start.

"We didn't start well. The Japanese were serving very well. When we started to play better we had break points but weren't able to take them."

Said Tecau: "We were broke early in each set and the Japanese team always had an advantage. We were always playing catch-up."



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