Australia, France take control of Davis Cup semis

Todd Woodbridge and Wayne Arthurs beat Magnus Larsson and Jonas Bjorkman in doubles Saturday to give Australia a 2-1 lead over Sweden in their best-of-five Davis Cup tennis semifinal.

France leads the Netherlands 2-0 in the other semifinal.

U.S. Open champion Lleyton Hewitt rallied to beat Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman in Friday's singles.

Hewitt bounced back from a set down for a four-set victory over Bjorkman in Sydney after Patrick Rafter lost in five sets to Thomas Johansson.

In Rotterdam, Dutch player Raemon Sluitter retired after injurying his ankle while leading Arnaud Clement 2-1 in the third set. Nicolas Escude then outlasted Sjeng Schalken 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 8-6 to put France in command.

The winners of each semifinal meet Nov. 30-Dec. 2, with either Australia or Sweden playing host for the final.

Hewitt posted a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) victory in a match that lasted three hours and 37 minutes and finished under floodlights.

Earlier, Johansson came back from two sets down to give Sweden a 1-0 lead. Johansson outlasted Rafter 3-6, 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in 3:42.

The best-of-five semifinal hinges on Sunday's opening reverse singles match between Hewitt and Johansson.

Swedish captain Carl-Axel Hageskog could use a fresh Thomas Enqvist, a surprise exclusion from the opening singles matches, in Sunday's reverse singles.

Woodbridge and Arthurs rallied to beat Larsson and Bjorkman 6-7 (3), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3). Bjorkman, the world's top-ranked doubles player, and Woodbridge are regular tournament doubles partners.

In the Netherlands, the French were handed an early lead when Sluiter retired, giving Clement a 3-6, 6-2, 1-2 victory.

Escude then silenced the 10,000 noisy Dutch fans by coming back and winning a fourth-set tiebreaker. Although he tossed away three match points at 5-3 and three more at 7-6, the Frenchman fired an ace to close out the match.

There were seven matches involving teams trying to get back into the World Group. The eighth, between the United States and India at Winston-Salem, N.C., was postponed until Oct. 12-14 because of last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Because of that postponement, the draw for next year's Davis Cup has been put back until Oct. 18.

Host Italy fielded a team of substitutes against Croatia because of a boycott by its experienced stars. But one of the youngsters, Filippo Volandri, marked his Davis Cup debut by beating Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic 6-2, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 0-6, 6-4 in the opening singles on clay at Rome's Foro Italico.

Ivan Ljubicic then made it 1-1 by beating Federico Luzzi 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.

"I did not believe I could lose this match," said Ivanisevic, who became the first wild card to win Wimbledon in July. "Now I'll have to pocket two points from the doubles and from the singles against Luzzi."

Italy's Andrea Gaudenzi, Davide Sanguinetti and Diego Nargiso have been in a dispute for several months with the Italian Tennis Federation over appearance money and selection of the team captain.

Elsewhere, host Spain led Uzbekistan 2-0; visiting Morocco was ahead of Belgium 2-0; Romania and the Czech Republic were tied 1-1; Chile was tied 1-1 at Slovakia; Britain led at Ecuador 2-0; and host Argentina led Belarus 2-0.