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Russia cruise into Davis Cup lead

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MOSCOW, Russia -- Marat Safin and Dmitry Tursunov hammered David Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri 6-2 6-3 6-4 in the doubles on Saturday to give Russia a 2-1 lead against Argentina in the Davis Cup final in Moscow.

Nalbandian, who played superb tennis when he thrashed Safin in straight sets in Friday's singles, looked a shadow of his former self just 20 hours later.

The Russians broke the Argentine number one twice in the first set and once more in the second to take a two-set lead.

They broke Calleri's serve in the opening game of the third on their way to clinching a surprisingly one-sided victory after one hour 38 minutes.

Former world number one Safin had replaced Mikhail Youzhny in Russia's line-up before the doubles match because the 2002 Davis Cup hero apparently has still not fully recovered from a serious ankle injury he suffered four weeks ago.

"Together with Dmitry (Tursnov) we are a good and experienced team," Safin said after the match. "We worked out our plan for the match and everything worked perfectly.

"We were just playing every single point allowing our opponents to make mistakes," Tursunov added. "And they were making mistakes throughout the match."

Not even the presence of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, among the thousand or so Argentinian fans, could boost the visitors as Safin and Tursunov broke Nalbandian's serve early before racing to a 4-1 lead and wrapping up the first set in 26 minutes.

The second set was almost a carbon copy.

The Russians, who were last champions in 2002, again raced to a 4-1 lead breaking Nalbandian's serve, and experienced few troubles in keeping their advantage to claim the second set inside an hour.

Calleri's serve was broken in the third set as the Russians continued to dominate on the courts of Moscow's Olympic 11,000-seater stadium.

Bounce back

Argentina's skipper Alberto Mancini admitted his team's backs were to the wall, but said they would hope to bounce back.

"We are 2-1 down and now need to come back into tough matches tomorrow," said Mancini.

"But I believe we still have good chances to win the trophy."

An out-of-sorts Nalbandian said: "Today I didn't feel so good and confident as yesterday. I have no idea why.

"But that's sport."

On Friday, Russian number one Nikolay Davydenko beat Juan Ignacio Chela in the opening rubber before Nalbandian leveled the score by crushing Safin, who complained then that he disliked the fast indoor surface at Moscow's Olympic arena.

Russia are aiming to win their second Davis Cup title, following their triumph in 2002, while Argentina are chasing their maiden crown.

Safin (left) and Tursunov were surprisingly easy winners.

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