John McEnroe beat Guillermo Perez Roldan in five sets and Andre Agassi beat Martin Jaite in straight sets Friday as the United States took a 2-0 lead over Argentina and moved within a victory of returning to the Davis Cup World Group.
The United States, knocked out of the top level of the 16-team competition last year when it lost to West Germany, competed in the American Zone this year.In the World Group semifinals, Boris Becker and Eric Jelen won straight-set victories to give West Germany a 2-0 lead over Yugoslavia. In the other semifinal, Yannick Noah of France led Mats Wilander of Sweden 6-2, 4-4 when the match was suspended by rain.
Four nations will join the World Group next year. In zonal Group 1 finals Friday, Austria led Britain 2-0, South Korea led Indonesia 2-0, the Soviet Union led the Nethlerlands 2-0 and the United States led Argentina.
In Dortmund, West Germany, Becker beat Slobodan Zivojinovic, his former doubles partner, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4. Jelen beat Goran Prpic 9-7, 9-7, 6-2. West Germany needs to win one more match to advance to its second final since 1985.
Becker, two-time Wimbledon champion and ranked fourth in the world, served 15 aces against Zivojinovic, ranked 25th.
"I knew he couldn't play much better than in the first set, and he still lost it," Becker said. "That's why I really went for it at the start of the second set, I wanted to use my chance and force my game."
"But that's not the reason I lost. Becker was returning much better than I was," Zivojinovic said. "My serve wasn't that bad, but against a player like Becker, you have to do other things as well to win and I didn't."
Prpic, ranked 546th, wasted a 4-1 lead in the first set. Jelen, ranked 46th, broke Prpic in the 15th game of the second set for a 8-7 lead and served out.
Jelen broke the Yugoslav in the third and the seventh game of the third set and closed the match with a service winner on his second match point.
At Bastad, Sweden, the 10th-ranked Noah served powerfully and went to the net often against Wilander, ranked third. The first set was played in a slight drizzle before the rain got harder. The match will be continued Saturday before the second singles between Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg and Henri Leconte.
In zonal finals, McEnroe held on to win 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on the clay courts of the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club despite shaky play. He double-faulted 14 times, lost the second set 7-5 after trying to serve out at 5-4 and was broken in the second game of the final set. McEnroe broke back to tie it 2-2, broke 14th-ranked Perez-Roldan in the eighth game and served out.
"A few years ago I was a lot more consistent," said McEnroe, ranked 17th. Agassi, ranked fifth, won 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 later on the cold winter afternoon. "I felt comfortable all the way through. I was very determined today," said Agassi, of Las Vegas, Nev.
Ken Flach and Robert Seguso face Cristian Miniussi and Javier Frana in Saturday's doubles match.
Thomas Muster beat Steve Shaw 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 and Horst Skoff beat Jeremy Bates 6-4, 6-4, 0-6, 6-0 as Austria surpisingly led Britain in the Euro-African Zone A, Group 1 final at Salzburg, Austria.
Andrei Cherkasov beat Peer Paul Doggers 6-4, 6-1, 9-7 and Andrei Chesnokov beat Michiel Schaper 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 to give the Soviet Union a 2-0 lead over the the Netherlands in the Euro-African Zone B, Group 1 final at Jurmala, a Soviet Baltic resort.
Kim Bong-soo beat Suharyadi 6-1, 7-5, 6-1 and Yoo Jin-sun beat Tintus Arianto Wibowo 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 as South Korea took a 2-0 lead over Indonesia in the Asia-Oceania Group 1I final at Jakarta, Indonesia.
Four matches were played among countries trying to move from Group 2 to Group 1 in their regions.