Sweden and US all square in Davis Cup semi

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GOTHENBURG, Sweden, Sep 21 (Reuters) Sweden and the United States were level at 1-1 after today's opening singles matches in their Davis Cup semi-final.

Andy Roddick gave the Americans the lead by winning a battle of giant servers with Joachim Johansson 7-6 7-6 6-3 but Thomas Johansson made sure the Swedes remained in contention with a four-set victory over James Blake.

''I played my best tennis today, I came out firing from the start,'' the former Australian Open champion said after beating a below-par Blake 6-4 6-2 3-6 6-3.

Johansson hit 23 aces to beat Blake for the first time.

Earlier, Roddick made the most of the few chances in his match, in which neither player was broken in the first two sets, by firing 30 aces to Joachim Johansson's 23.

Leading 4-3 in the third set, the American got a break point when Johansson smashed wide and then missed a forehand to give the game to Roddick who served out to clinch the match.

''I had a little advantage in the tiebreaks,'' said Roddick, who beat Johansson for the second time in three meetings.

''I don't think I was that comfortable out there,'' he added, referring to the fast indoor carpet in the Scandinavium arena.

''But against 'Pim-Pim' (Johansson) it was always going to be fast play, regardless of the surface,'' said the American, who was not surprised at the quality of Johansson's performance in the Swede's first competitive match since January.

''Last year, he beat (Rafael) Nadal in the Stockholm Open in straight sets after just coming back from an injury, and I think he made the semis then. He has a style of play that doesn't need that much repetition for it to get effective or imposing.'' TIEBREAK EDGE ''It was telling in the tiebreaks that I got some balls into play and that helped,'' said the American, who also underlined the importance of holding his serve during the tiebreaks.

In the first set tiebreak, Roddick got a 2-0 mini-break when Johansson netted a backhand, then held his serve before another backhand error by the Swede handed him the tiebreak 7-4.

In the following tiebreak Johansson hit a forehand wide to give Roddick a 5-3 lead and the American broke again to lead 6-3 with a forehand passing shot before closing with an ace.

''He just played better than me on the big points,'' said Johansson, who beat Roddick in the 2004 U.S Open quarter-finals.

''My body felt well, my shoulder felt good, but it's tough to get a good feeling during a match like this with such short rallies, on this fast court with low bounces,'' added the Swede , who is ranked a lowly 162nd after his injuries.

''It's tough to play a match like this after eight months.'' Johansson, who has struggled with recurrent shoulder and elbow injuries since reaching the top 10 in 2005, was called into the squad only last week when Sweden's top-ranked player Robin Soderling pulled out with a wrist injury.

In tomorrow's doubles, the Bryan twins Bob and Mike will play Jonas Bjorkman and US Open doubles champion Simon Aspelin.

''You wouldn't want anyone else out there in a match like this,'' said US captain Patrick McEnroe.

REUTERS AB PM0000

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