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Clay nearly became a quagmire for the U.S. team as it began defense Friday of its Davis Cup title.

Andy Roddick was extended to five sets on what he said was a "terrible" court. James Blake, a Tampa resident, got by his opening singles with what he suspects was his best match on clay, giving the Americans a 2-0 lead over Austria in the first round.

Roddick beat Jurgen Melzer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(4-7),6-3 on the slow indoor clay. Melzerwas treated for a thigh injury in the fifth set.

"The court was terrible - the worst I ever played on in Davis Cup," Roddick said. "It was the tough match I expected, but I won."

Blake had far less trouble once he got past the first set, defeating Stefan Koubek5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. "This was probably my best match ever on clay," Blake said.

The United States can clinch the best-of-five series and reach the quarterfinals by winning doubles today.

Open Gaz de France: Top seedAnna Chakvetadzeoutlasted Amelie Mauresmo3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and now faces Marion Bartoli.


FIFA targets EPL plan

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the sport's governing body will investigate an English Premier League proposal to organize additional domestic matches in foreign countries.

EPL club owners said Thursday that they might each play an extra league game during midseason, with the matches in five cities around the world. If approved, the games will start in the 2010-11 season.

FIFA regulations say no teams can play on the territory of another country without permission.

MLS: The Colorado Rapids signed Argentine midfielder Christian Gomez, the league's MVP in 2006, to a two-year deal worth $400,000 after acquiring his rights from D.C. United.

Et cetera

BOXING:Eric Morel (36-2), 31, the former WBA flyweight champ and 1996 Olympian who recently completed a prison term for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl, returned to unanimously outpoint Felipe Almanza in an eight-round 118-pound bout in Miami.

GYMNASTICS:Kevin Mazeika will coach the U.S. men's team at the Olympics for the second straight time.

Figure Skating:Former U.S. national champChristopher Bowman died from an accidental drug overdose and an enlarged heart, the Los Angeles County coroner said. Bowman, 40, was found dead Jan. 10. Tests showed his blood-alcohol was 0.12 percent, and the presence of cocaine, Valium, marijuana and the prescription drug Seroquel, used to treat bipolar disorder.

COLLEGES:A Massachusetts lacrosse player was charged with three felonies in connection with a fight in Amherst that injured several. Police say Christian Haggerty, 19, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (his shod foot) and breaking and entering. Police claim he was part of a group that used baseball bats, lacrosse sticks and bottles during the Feb. 1 fight at a party. He was among eight players suspended indefinitely from the team.

MEDIA: Veteran broadcaster Chet Coppock of WMVP-AM 1000 in Chicago was suspended until Feb. 23 after he made an offensive remark about Jews on his sports radio show.