Federer tastes rare defeat in Davis Cup doubles

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PRAGUE, Sep 22 (Reuters) Roger Federer suffered a rare defeat when Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych won the doubles to give the Czech Republic a 2-1 lead over Switzerland in their Davis Cup World Group playoff tie today.

World number one Federer and Yves Allegro squandered a match point in the third set and eventually succumbed to a 3-6 5-7 7-6 6-4 6-4 defeat.

''We were one volley, one serve away. We were able to dominate for threes sets, just not win in the end,'' Federer said.

The 26-year-old Swiss conserves his energy these days for grand slam titles and the ATP Tour but comes to the rescue of the Swiss when they face dropping out of the Davis Cup top flight.

Prior to the Davis Cup tie, Federer had not played since winning his fourth consecutive US Open title earlier this month.

He looked rusty but still beat Stepanek in four sets in the opening singles yesterday, and will play his third match in three days against Czech number one, Berdych in the first reverse singles tomorrow.

''It shouldn't be a problem to get up for the third day in a row. It was only doubles today and I am training more than three hours a day, so physically it's not a problem,'' Federer said.

If Switzerland fail to win both of Sunday's rubbers, they will drop out of the World Group for the first time since 1994.

REUTERS GT RK2315

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