Home advantage a major boost for USA

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Los Angeles, Nov 16: Home advantage will give the US a massive boost when they host 2006 champions Russia in this month's Davis Cup final, says singles mainstay James Blake.

The Americans, bidding for their first Davis Cup title in 12 years, will face the Russians on the indoor surface at Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon from November 30-December 2.

''I think for Andy (Roddick) and myself it's a great situation,'' Blake said in a conference call yesterday. ''We love playing on indoor hard. We've had some of our best results there.

''We're feeling really good. We know we're going to have a raucous crowd on our side and I think this is the perfect situation for me to play some of my best tennis.'' World number 13 Blake and fifth-ranked Roddick are the singles mainstays of the US squad with the dominant Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, inked in to play the doubles.

''I think the Bryans could play on Pluto and still be the favourites,'' Blake added. ''We could put it on just about anything and I like their chances.'' Russia captain Shamil Tarpishchev suggested the Americans could be vulnerable in the singles matches when announcing his finals line-up earlier this week but Blake begs to differ.

''He's got to get them fired up some way,'' the New York native said. ''He has to show he believes in them.

''Obviously we have a different opinion. We think our singles players are pretty impressive. I think we've got a very strong team and a team that is capable of winning this Davis Cup.

FEELING COMFORTABLE

''The way Andy has led us, the way he's performed in all his matches where he's needed to clinch, the way he's performed away and at home, especially at home, we feel comfortable.'' Blake would love to have the opportunity to seal victory for the US in the fifth and final match.

''I want to have that chance if I get there,'' he said. ''I want to be the one that our team is counting on. I feel like I performed when needed.

''But I've never really been put in the position to be tested in that fifth match. Andy has been the best closer of all time for American tennis.'' Russia, who beat Argentina for the title last year in Moscow, will be led by world number four Nikolay Davydenko in Portland. He will be joined by Mikhail Youzhny (19), Igor Andreev (33) and Dmitry Tursunov (34) for the three-day tie.

The Americans, hunting their first US Davis Cup triumph since 1995 on clay in Moscow, will be hosting the final for the first time since they beat Switzerland in Fort Worth, Texas in 1992.

Reuters
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