Comes Back to Win Davis Cup
December 01, 2002
First Davis Cup Trophy comes with the help of two singles wins
by Safin and five-set thriller by Youzhny.
Russia pulled off a historic and stunning victory over France
in the Davis Cup Final Sunday at the Palais Omnisports Paris
Bercy to win its first Davis Cup trophy.
The most unlikely hero of the weekend was 20-year-old Russian
Mikhail Youzhny, who was a ball boy the last time Russia played
in the Davis Cup final back in 1995.
Substituting for veteran Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who was overcome
with exhaustion following his five-set doubles match on Saturday,
Youzhny came from two sets down to defeat Paul-Henri Mathieu
in the fifth and deciding match, stunning the crowd of 15,000
that included former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
French President Jacques Chirac also attended matches during
the three-day competition.
It was a fitting finish to a roller coaster weekend of tennis
and drama played out on the special red clay court set up
in the Palais Omnisports, where just over a month ago Marat
Safin was crowned champion at the BNP Paribas Masters.
Safin would again find success indoors in Paris this weekend.
His opening match victory over Mathieu got Russia going early
and his victory over Sebastien Grosjean on Sunday started
Russia back on its comeback after being down 2-1 following
the doubles match on Saturday.
France had history on its side. In every final since 1978,
the team winning the doubles point has gone on to win the
Davis Cup. France had also never lost a Davis Cup Final when
leading going into the final day.
But history didn't matter to Safin or Youzhny, who became
the first man in the 102 years of the Davis Cup competition
to come back from a two set deficit in the fifth match of
the final. It was also Youzhny's first meaningful Davis Cup
victory in his career. He was 1-4 before the match with his
only victory coming in a meaningless dead rubber.
"We decided to put Mikhail because Yevgeny was tired
after the doubles," said Safin. "He couldn't play
today, so we decided to put the young player. Why not?"
"Probably my ego was saying that I should play, but
realistically I felt like he [Youzhny] was going to give the
best effort than I could," said Kafelnikov. "You
know, lately he was playing well, and I wasn't."
Perhaps making the decision easier for Russian coach Shamil
Tarpishev has been Youzhny's solid play this season. Last
month, he reached the final at the St. Petersburg Open and
earlier this year captured his first ATP title at the Stuttgart
For Safin, the win ranks up with some of his best tennis
moments. "I'm so happy, I'm so glad. I cannot describe
what I'm feeling right now. It's just something that is just
so great, it's the best."
Youzhny himself seemed shocked by the moment. "I don't
understand what's happens. I just know we're winning. I was
very glad after the match."
For the team veteran, 28-year-old Kafelnikov, a few days
of reflection are needed before he announces whether he will
continue to play professionally. The former World No. 1 and
two-time Grand Slam champion had said this fall that he would
retire if he helped his country win its first Davis Cup trophy.
But he was non-committal after the match. "Let me explain
once again. It's very enjoyable moment for me right now. I
do respect what I said before. Like I told you, the final
decision will be made throughout next week."