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Cup crew a tight bunch

By Wire services
Published September 6, 2006

NEW YORK - Win or lose, Andy Roddick, James Blake and Bob and Mike Bryan form a tight-knit group, the sort of camaraderie the U.S. Davis Cup team hadn't enjoyed in quite some time.

Now the big question is whether that friendly foursome can pull off a victory over host Russia in the Davis Cup semifinals Sept. 22-24.

"I did just luck out," U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said Tuesday after announcing his team would consist of those players who enjoy each other's company, playing poker to pass the time when they're teammates.

"They genuinely look forward to the Davis Cup weeks. I think it really helps our guys, not just in Davis Cup, but throughout the year. They really pull for each other and support each other."

The best-of-five semifinal is scheduled to be played indoors at Moscow's Olympic Stadium on clay, a surface that has given Roddick and Blake fits in the past.

"We hear it's going to be nice and slow, nice and heavy," said McEnroe, in a tongue-and-cheek moment. "That's the way it's been when they've had some matches there in the past at the Olympic stadium."

In the 2004 Davis Cup final, the United States lost to Spain on clay in Seville. Last year, though, the United States qualified for the World Group by beating Belgium on that same slow surface.

HALL OF FAME: Pete Sampras heads the list of nominees for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Sampras, who won a record 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles, is joined by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the "recent player" category, the Hall announced Tuesday from its home in Newport, R.I.

Sampras was ranked No. 1 for a record 286 weeks, including 102 in a row from April 1996 to March 1998. He won a total of 64 singles titles.

Sanchez Vicario won three French Opens and was the first Spanish woman to win the U.S. Open singles title in 1994.

COMING TO AMERICA: In a matter of weeks, perhaps even this month, Jana Novotna will become the third Czech-born Grand Slam winner to become an American citizen, joining Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl.

"I love this country. We are going to have to have a good old all-American party," the 1998 Wimbledon winner said, her face lit up like a kid who had just opened about 50 Christmas presents.

"I knew when I was 15 years old and had come to America for the first time, to play the Orange Bowl in Miami, and had no money, couldn't speak any English. But I loved it so much. I felt one day I would love to be a citizen of this great country."

Novotna, 37, who retired from professional tennis in 1999, will take her final interview with immigration authorities in Palm Beach County and, she said, "after that it's just a little time until you get the certificate."

- TIMES WIRES

[Last modified September 6, 2006, 05:35:55]


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