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Argentina knock holders Croatia out of Davis Cup

Written by: Staff

ZAGREB, Apr 9 (Reuters) Argentina knocked holders Croatia out of the Davis Cup when Juan Ignacio Chela beat Sasa Tuksar 3-6 6-4 7-6 7-6 to give his team a tense 3-2 victory in their quarter-final today.

In the semi-finals Argentina will host Australia who beat Belarus 5-0 in their quarter-final.

Chela's win completed a memorable weekend for the Argentines who have reached their fourth semi-final in five years.

He fought back from a set down to send Argentina through after Croatia's top-ranked player and team captain Ivan Ljubicic hauled the holders level at 2-2 with a straight sets win over David Nalbandian in Sunday's first singles rubber.

World number 31 Chela weathered an early setback and several crises in the second and third sets against his unheralded rival to clinch a thrilling tie for Argentina, who beat Croatia by the same score at the same stage of the competition in 2002.

Tuksar was selected to stand in for world number 17 Mario Ancic, who missed the entire tie with a back injury. He got the nod ahead of 17-year old prospect Marin Cilic who was thrashed by Nalbandian on Friday and looked low on confidence in the doubles he lost with Ljubicic to Nalbandian and Jose Acasuso.

Roared on by a passionate home crowd, world number 159 Tuksar broke Chela's serve twice to take the opening set.

However he lost the next two through a series of unforced errors, notably an easy cross-court volley with the score level at 4-4 and deuce in the second.

TOO STRONG Chela clinched a see-saw third set after winning a nervy tiebreak 8-6.

He then fought back from 2-0 down in the fourth to delight a vociferous band of about 50 Argentina fans.

A battling Tuksar saved four match points in the fourth set before rifling a mid-court forehand into the net to hand the tiebreak 7-5 to Chela, who was then hugged by his jubilant team mates and captain Alberto Mancini.

Earlier world number five Ljubicic hauled Croatia level with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over Nalbandian after serving a total of 35 aces and proving too strong for the world number three.

''I served really well and never let him get into the match,'' said,'' Ljubicic said.

Reuters VJ VP0045

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