Tennis:Sampras limps off as United States trail Sweden

Tennis: Davis Cup Final
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The Independent Online
Sweden, carried by the home crowd in Gothenburg and favoured fortune, opened a 2-0 advantage and are poised to defeat the United States in the Davis Cup final yesterday.

Jonas Bjorkman turned his match around in the third set to beat Michael Chang 7-5, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. The American cause suffered a serious blow when the world No 1, Pete Sampras, was forced to limp off court with a pulled calf when his singles match against Magnus Larsson stood at one-set all.

Bjorkman, playing some solid tennis, broke Chang's serve three times in the final set and converted his second match point to win in two hours, 53 minutes.

"It's incredible," Bjorkman said. "It makes all the training worthwhile."

Bjorkman, who has risen from No 69 to No 4 in the world this year, also beat Chang in their last meeting at the ATP Tour Championship in Hanover, Germany, earlier this month. He said yesterday's victory was his biggest in the Davis Cup. He was only a substitute last year but he has carried Sweden's team this year.

Chang said he was disappointed to let the team down. "I wasn't able to win the crucial points. It's always important to get off to a good start and I wasn't able to do that today," he said.

The first set lasted 70 minutes, longer than some two-set matches, as all but three games went to one or more deuces. There were some spectacular rallies and extraordinary points, such as when an air-borne Chang hit a winner off a wrong foot.

The sell-out crowd of 11,000 in the Scandinavium hall was noisily partisan, and showed their delight when Chang, No. 3 in the world, dropped his serve to trail 6-5. That game included a double fault perhaps caused by one of the paper planes occasionally hurled on to the court from the crowd.

Bjorkman used his chance and served out the long set, but the American recovered quickly to break serve for a 2-0 lead and rolled through the second set in just 26 minutes. Chang led 3-1 in the third set and was one point away from a 4-2 lead when the match turned around.

Bjorkman slipped on the fast indoor carpet near the net but still recovered to win the point. Chang then went on to drop his serve and Bjorkman tied the score at 3-3.

"That was a big turnaround," Bjorkman said. "When I got the break back, I had to feel that I was in the match again."

Chang agreed. "It was a pretty important point. It was the turning point of the match probably," he said.

The Swede served out the set without problems, hitting two service winners in a row.

The fourth started with an exchange of service breaks and Bjorkman took a 4-3 lead on another. Serving to stay in the match, Chang had a double fault that made it 30-30. A volley by Bjorkman gave the Swede his first match point, but he wasted it by hitting a forehand long. A forehand winner set up another and Chang dropped the match when he hit a volley into the net.

The doubles are scheduled for today and reverse singles are due to be played on Sunday, but there must be a doubt over whether Sampras will play.