Defending champion United States faces Austria on clay in Davis Cup

VIENNA, Austria -- The defending champion U.S. Davis Cup team will shift from the hardcourts to slow clay when it faces Austria in the first round. The Austrians are hoping the slow play will neutralize American stars Andy Roddick and James Blake. "That will be a big advantage to us," Jurgen Melzer said Tuesday. "We also picked slow balls so we will see many rallies. Andy Roddick and James Blake don't like that, they want to put balls away as soon as possible." The best-of-five series starts with singles matches Friday at Ferry-Dusika Stadium. A loud crowd of about 6,500 fans await the Americans this weekend. "The atmosphere is going to be absolutely thrilling," said Stefan Koubek, Austria's top player at No. 55. "The Americans will really feel they are playing an away match." The top-ranked doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan also will return for the U.S. team. The quartet helped the U.S. win its record 32nd Davis Cup title last month against Russia. Koubek and Melzer, ranked 57th, are expected to play singles against No. 6 Roddick and No. 12 Blake. Melzer will likely team with U.S. Open doubles champion Julian Knowle against the Bryan brothers. Knowle said he has recovered from recent dizzy spells and an elbow injury. Austria captain Gilbert Schaller knows a raucous crowd can only help their cause. "It is important that we get a huge tennis party here," Schaller said. "And maybe we can get a happy end for us." The match between the United States and Austria will be the third in Davis Cup history. The Americans won the previous two, first on clay in Vienna in 1990 and hardcourts in Connecticut in 2004.