Nikolay Davydenko beat Juan Ignacio Chela 6-1, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to give Russia a 1-0 lead over Argentina in the Davis Cup final Friday.
Davydenko, who had lost his five previous matches against Chela, overcame shaky starts in his early service games and a third-set stumble to win the opening singles on the synthetic indoor carpet at Moscow's Olympic Stadium.
"The final, at home how could I not be nervous," Davydenko said. "I lost the third set because I made so many mistakes. In the fourth set, I made fewer and played well."
Returning to the venue where he won the Kremlin Cup in October, third-ranked Davydenko overpowered Chela and controlled the first two sets.
Davydenko broke the Argentine at the first opportunity in the match to lead 2-0 before surviving break points in the next game for 3-0.
Chela pulled back to 3-1 and then unsuccessfully challenged a call using the Hawk-Eye video system, which is making its Davis Cup debut.
Davydenko won the remaining games to take the first set 6-1, and also won the second set 6-2 after breaking Chela in the fifth game.
Davydenko fell to 4-1 down when Chela broke him for the first time and then held serve. The Russian recovered by breaking back and took the set to 5-5 before Chela broke him again to win 7-5.
Chela stormed to a fourth-set lead by taking the first game at love, but Davydenko came back from 40-love in Chela's next service game for a break and a 2-1 lead.
Chela handed Davydenko the following game by angling an easy backhand wide and lost at love on his next serve for 4-1 to Davydenko.
After time out for a thigh massage, Chela brought it back to 4-3 as the Russian tired.
Davydenko ended his next service game with his seventh ace for 5-3. Chela then held serve, surviving a break point.
Leading 5-4, Davydenko earned two match points with a service winner and closed it out in 3 hours, five minutes with another service winner.
"I started well today but didn't rise to the occasion, while he played well on key points," Chela said. "And we never played before on this surface, which also was a factor."
Two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin faced David Nalbandian in the second singles match Friday, while Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny are to play Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri in Saturday's doubles, reports AP.
The reverse singles of the best-of-five series are Sunday.
Chela, ranked No. 33, had beaten Davydenko three times on clay and twice on hard courts.
Russia, unbeaten at home in 11 years, is making its fourth appearance in the final and looking for its second Davis Cup win after beating France in 2002. Argentina has never won the title, losing to the United States in its only final appearance in 1981.