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Sun 10 Feb 2008 02:11 AM

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USA, France and Argentina make Davis Cup last eight

Defending champions set to clash with nine-time winners in quarter finals.

Defending champions America and France, two of the most successful countries in Davis Cup history, will clash in this year's quarter-finals after cruising through their World Group first round ties.

The US, the 31-time champions, saw off Austria 3-0 while nine-time winners France also opened up a 3-0 lead over Romania.

The two nations, who have seven wins each from their 14 meetings, will meet in the last eight in April at Winston-Salem in North Carolina where France will attempt to win on American soil for the first time since 1927.

In Vienna, American doubles powerhouses Bob and Mike Bryan showed no mercy in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 hammering of Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer to take their personal mark in the competition to 14-1.

"It came easy for us," said Mike Bryan. "After we broke in the first game we were never really under the gun. We never felt any big-time pressure.

"We sustained our form all the way through."

Andy Roddick and James Blake had both won their opening singles on Friday.

In Sibiu, Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra saw off Horia Tecau and Florin Mergea 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 3-6, 6-2 as the French reached the quarter-finals for the eighth year in a row.

After Richard Gasquet and Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had won Friday's singles, Clement and Llodra, the finalists in Melbourne this year, had been expected to cruise through on Saturday against a pair ranked outside the top 500.

But after opening up a two-set lead they wasted two match points in the third set before they settled the affair with a commanding finals set performance.

In Moscow, Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic kept alive Serbia's chances by defeating Russia's Mikhail Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5).

That made the overall score 2-1 ahead of Sunday's reverse singles.

"I'm happy that we're still in," said Djokovic who missed the singles on Friday because of flu.

"It was not really encouraging as we were 2-0 down after the first day with our three best players injured or sick but today we played solid tennis and remained in the match."

The winners of the tie will face the Czech Republic, who defeated Belgium 3-0, in the last eight.

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek beat Olivier Rochus and Kristof Vliegen 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 in the doubles in Ostrava.

Argentina eased into the last eight when David Nalbandian and Jose Acasuso beat Jamie Murray and Ross Hutchins 6-2, 7-6 (13/11), 6-0 in the doubles for a 3-0 win over Great Britain in Buenos Aires.

The powerful South Americans will face either Israel or Sweden in the last eight.

Israel opened up a 2-1 lead in their tie after Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram beat Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt 6-3, 7-6, 7-5 in Ramat Hasharon.

The other last eight tie will see either Peru or Spain meet either Germany or South Korea.

Philipp Kohlschreiber and Philipp Petzschner put Germany into a 2-1 lead over the Koreans after a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win over Jun Woong-Sun and An Jae-Sung.

South Korea's top player Lee Hyung-Taik withdrew from the rubber after winning his three hour 46 minute clash with Florian Mayer on Friday.

Spain, without world number two Rafael Nadal, lead Peru 2-0 in Lima after Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo won their singles on Friday.

Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco can wrap up the tie when they meet Luis Horna and Ivan Miranda in Saturday's doubles.

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