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Arthurs and Hanley seal victory for Australia

Written by: Staff
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MELBOURNE, Apr 8 (Reuters) Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley ground down Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov 3-6 6-4 5-7 6-3 7-5 to give Australia an unassailable 3-0 lead over Belarus in their Davis Cup quarter-final today.

The Australian pair coped better with the blustery conditions at Kooyong, sealing victory on their third match point when Voltchkov sent a service return long.

Australia captain John Fitzgerald paid tribute to his inexperienced team.

''All you can do is prepare the right way and rely on players who have good character and who can handle the pressure,'' he told a news conference.

The Belarussians started well, breaking Hanley's serve in the eighth game on the way to wining the opening set.

Arthurs and Hanley then broke Mirnyi before levelling the match, but Voltchkov was the inspiration as Belarus again broke Hanley's serve in the third set to edge ahead.

Belarus scented victory when they created two break points on Arthurs' serve at 2-2 in the fourth, but the left-hander dug in to hold and the Australians immediately broke Mirnyi again.

Voltchkov then lost his serve in the 11th game of the deciding set and Hanley calmly served out to seal victory in nearly four hours.

''I was really nervous, really tight today, and I couldn't release myself,'' the 35-year-old Arthurs said.

''I sort of dug deep and actually thought about the 2003 final when I played so well and sort of went into that same zone in probably the middle of the fourth set and the whole way through the fifth set.'' Chris Guccione and Lleyton Hewitt had given Australia a 2-0 lead with victories over Mirnyi and Voltchkov in the opening singles matches yesterday.

Australia, Davis Cup winners in 2003 and 1999, will play holders Croatia or Argentina in the semi-finals.

REUTERS DH HT1422

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