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Agassi in Davis Cup, not Federer or Moya
Updated: 2005-03-03 09:35

Andre Agassi is back, but Roger Federer and Carlos Moya are out for the first round of the Davis Cup.

Back in the U.S. Davis Cup team for the first time in five years, Andre Agassi is raring to get started in this weekend's first round clash against Croatia. [Reuters]
Agassi is returning to the Davis Cup after a five-year absence when the United States plays Croatia in Carson, Calif. Two years ago in Zagreb, the Croats ousted the Americans in the first round.

"I think that when you get older, your capacity to embrace special moments grows," the 34-year-old Agassi said. "I certainly feel that way this week."

In seven other best-of-five World Group pairings that begin Friday, it's Australia vs. Austria, Slovakia vs. Spain, Switzerland vs. Netherlands, Argentina vs. Czech Republic, Russia vs. Chile, France vs. Sweden and Romania vs. Belarus.

Despite the absence of top-ranked Federer and No. 6 Moya, the other eight players in the ATP's top 10 are all playing.

Agassi is 30-5 in Davis Cup singles. A member of three U.S. Davis Cup champions, he joins Andy Roddick and the doubles team of twins Mike and Bob Bryan.

"We're ecstatic about it," Roddick said. "Anything that we can get to help our cause and reach our ultimate goal of winning this thing is great."

The Americans have won the Davis Cup a record 31 times, but not since 1995 — their longest drought in 68 years. They face a Croatian squad led by Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic. Both will most likely will play doubles as well as singles.

Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, ranked No. 2, has been out since losing the Australian Open (news - web sites) final a month ago to Marat Safin.

"I'm just trying to get the motivation and adrenaline back in the body," said Hewitt, who will lead the Aussies in Sydney against Austria. Australia has won the Davis Cup 28 times.

Moya, who led Spain to the Cup title in December against the United States, is not playing this year to concentrate on Grand Slams.

Without him in Bratislava, 18-year-old Rafael Nadal will attempt to defend the title. In beating Roddick in Seville three months ago, Nadal became the second-youngest player to win a singles match in a Davis final. Only Boris Becker was younger.

No. 4 Safin and No. 15 Nikolay Davydenko make Russia a favorite against Chile in Moscow. Chile played the former Soviet Union twice in the 1960s, and lost both times. They have not met since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

No. 19 Fernando Gonzalez leads Chile while No. 20 Nicolas Massu is out with a leg injury.

"It's easier for me to play for the national team, especially in Moscow," Safin said. "When you play individually, sometimes your fans get disappointed."

This is the third meeting between Argentina and the Czech Republic, and the Czechs have won previous two. Playing in Buenos Aires, the Argentines feature four of the world's top 12 players: Guillermo Coria, Gaston Gaudio, David Nalbandian and Guillermo Canas. Jiri Novak leads the Czechs.

Federer hasn't ruled out playing Davis Cup later this year, but it won't matter if the Swiss lose in Fribourg to the Dutch. Ivo Heuberger leads the Swiss and Sjeng Schalken the Dutch. Neither team has a top 50 player.

France has won the Davis Cup nine times and Sweden seven. The series in Strasbourg will be the 12th meeting between the two, with Sweden ahead 7-4. Their last meeting was the 1996 final, which France won 3-2.

Captain Mats Wilander's Swedes will be led by No. 25 Thomas Johansson. No. 28 Sebastien Grosjean heads Guy Forget's team. Sweden last won the Davis Cup in 1998, France in 2001.

Romania and Belarus meet for the first time in Davis play, squaring off in Brasov, Romania. No. 24 Andrei Pavel leads Romania, with No. 38 Max Mirnyi the top-ranked player for Belarus.

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