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Russia leads Argentina, needs one win to claim Davis Cup

MOSCOW — This time, Marat Safin managed just fine on the court.

The Russian found his footing Saturday on a surface that left him seething less than 24 hours earlier. He and Dmitry Tursunov beat Argentina’s David Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, putting Russia ahead 2-1 and one match from its second Davis Cup title.

The reverse singles today at Olympic Stadium will decide the outcome, with Argentina trying for its first Davis Cup crown.

Russia’s comfortable doubles victory came a day after Nalbandian evened the best-of-five final by beating Safin 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. That match followed Nikolay Davydenko’s 6-1, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Juan Ignacio Chela.

Safin had blamed the indoor carpet for his singles loss, saying the surface suited Nalbandian “perfectly.” The Russian squad had trained on the carpet when it was placed on top of a wood parquet but in competition, Safin complained, the carpet was on cement.

The Argentine fans, including soccer great Diego Maradona, were subdued as Tursunov and Safin overpowered their opponents, conceding only one point in their first-set service games. Nalbandian and Calleri never had a break point in the match.

Safin had never met Maradona before, although the Russian was well aware of the infamous “hand of God” goal in Argentina’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory over England in the 1986 World Cup.

“It was a great honor to shake the hand with which he scored a goal,” Safin said.

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