PARIS: Defending champion United States and two-time winner Russia kept their hopes of reaching the Davis Cup final alive on Saturday after both teams clinched marathon doubles wins in their semifinals.
In Madrid, the makeshift pairing of Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish enjoyed a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win for the 32-time champion over Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco to trail Spain 2-1.
Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, Russia, which slumped to a dispiriting 2-0 deficit against Argentina on Friday, saw Igor Kunitsyn and Dmitry Tursunov defeat David Nalbandian and Guillermo Canas 6-2, 6-1, 6-7 , 3-6, 8-6.
Both ties will be decided in Sunday's reverse singles when Spain's world No 1 Rafael Nadal tackles Andy Roddick and David Ferrer meets Sam Querrey.
Argentina, which has never won the Davis Cup, will have Nalbandian up against world No 6 Nikolay Davydenko and teenage sensation Juan Martin Del Potro facing Igor Andreev.
Bryan said he was pleased the way he and Fish had responded to the pressure of playing in the intimidating 22,000-capacity Las Ventas bullring in Madrid.
"The crowd was very loud and it wasn't easy, but we stayed tough," said Bryan who was paired with Fish for the first time after his twin brother, and regular playing partner, Bob withdrew from the tie with a shoulder injury.
At stake on Sunday is a place in the final which takes place from Nov 21-23.
Tursunov and Kunitsyn could have wrapped up their rubber in straight sets but squandered three match points in the third set.
However, Tursunov said that Russia's captain Shamil Tarpischev had wanted a five-set win more than straight sets.
"When we were up two sets to love he basically said: 'Keep David out there as much as you can because if you win in three sets it's not really helpful because he's still going to be able to play tomorrow,' so we tried our best to keep him out on the court," said Tursunov.
In the play-offs, where the winners will secure places in the World Group in 2009, Olympic doubles champions Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka came back from a set down to beat Belgium's Olivier Rochus and Xavier Malisse.
The Swiss duo won 4-6, 7-6 , 6-3, 6-3 in Lausanne to give their team an unassailable 3-0 lead.
Serbia also opened up a 3-0 winning lead over Slovakia in Bratislava. Viktor Troicki teamed with Nenad Zimonjic, the 2008 Wimbledon doubles champion, to defeat Michal Mertinak and Filip Polasek 7-6 , 6-4, 6-7 , 7-6 .
Troicki, the world 128, came in as a late replacement for Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.
On the clay courts of Antofagasta, world No 80 Chris Guccione and Carsten Ball, the 189th-ranked player, clinched a memorable win for Australia to keep their country's hopes alive against Chile.
Guccione and Ball defeated former Olympic champions Nicolas Massu and Fernando Gonzalez 6-7 , 7-6 , 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 in a four-hour, doubles marathon to cut the deficit in their play-off to 2-1.
In Bucharest, Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes kept India alive in their tie with Romania beating Horia Tecau and Adrian Cruciat 6-4, 7-6 , 6-4 to reduce the overall deficit to 2-1 ahead of Sunday's concluding two singles.
Britain's hopes were left hanging in the balance after Austria won the doubles to take a 2-1 lead into the final day at Wimbledon.
Jurgen Melzer and Julian Knowle made short work of Jamie Murray and Ross Hutchins, racing to a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 win.
Elsewhere, Israel opened up a 2-1 lead over Peru at Ramat Hasharon after Andy Ram and Harel Levy beat Mauricio Echazu and Matias Silva 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.
At Apeldoorn in the Netherlands, the Dutch also led 2-1 thanks to Peter Wessels and Jesse Huta Galung seeing off Jun Woong-sun and Lee Hyung-taik 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
In the day's other play-off, Croatia was- 2-1 ahead of Brazil in Zadar after Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa defeated Ivo Karlovic and Lovro Zovko 6-7 , 6-2, 7-5, 6-7 , 6-3 to keep the South Americans in the tie.
Source: China Daily/Agencies