VIENNA, SEPT. 20 -- The United States and Austria each wants to be the underdog for this weekend's Davis Cup semifinal. "It's still about David and Goliath," Austrian captain Filip Krajcik said. "I hope we can hit them in the eye."
The best of five series begins Friday, when Michael Chang faces Austrian Thomas Muster and Andre Agassi plays Horst Skoff. Muster gives Austria only a 40 percent chance of winning, even though he is undefeated in 22 Davis Cup matches on clay and is ranked seventh in the world.
But Chang, No. 12 in the world, won't accept the role of the favorite. "We are coming here to play in Austria and I think I'm the underdog playing against Thomas," he said. "There is more pressure on Thomas."
Australia hosts Argentina on grass in the other semifinal. The winners meet for the Davis Cup, Nov. 30-Dec. 2.
The Americans have won the Davis Cup a record 28 times but slipped in recent years, falling out of the World Group in 1987 before rebounding over the past two years.
Chang ended a long U.S. clay-court drought by winning the French Open last year and Agassi has been a finalist in two Grand Slam tournaments this year. "There's no question if you look at the top 10 or 15, it's mostly Americans now," said Agassi, who at No. 4 is one of six Americans in the top 13.
Austria is making its first appearance in the Davis Cup semifinals.
"If we would have talked about playing the United States in the semifinals of the Davis Cup two years ago, everybody in Austria would have laughed," said Theodor Zeh, president of the Austrian Tennis Federation. "Now the dream has come true."
Today's draw worked to Muster's advantage. By playing in the first singles match, he should have some rest before Saturday's doubles, in which he and Alex Antonitsch go against Rick Leach and Jim Pugh. The second singles match probably will not finish by dusk and since the specially built clay cour is in the unlighted Prater soccer stadium, will have to continue before Saturday's doubles. The Muster-Agassi and Skoff-Chang singles matches are Sunday.
Krajcik, hoping for a loud, supportive crowd, said his squad needs an exceptional performance from Skoff, out most of the spring and summer with knee surgery, but a winner in Geneva last week.
"It's the most important sports event we've had in years," Skoff said. "If we win this, we will be heroes."