Sampras gamble pays

PETE SAMPRAS and Todd Martin gave the United States a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup final yesterday by beating Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andrei Olkhovsky 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 in the doubles.

Worried about needing to win both matches today in front of a hostile crowd, the American captain, Tom Gullikson, called on Sampras for extra duty just two hours before the match, putting the world No 1 in for Richey Reneberg, a last-minute addition to the team himself with Andre Agassi unable to play owing to a lingering chest injury. Sampras, who was carried off court with severe cramp after he beat Andrei Chesnokov in a five-set match on Friday, showed no sign of injury.

Things began promisingly for the Russians when Martin dropped his service in the first game. But Kafelnikov failed to hold his own serve at 4-3 and was broken again to give the American pair the set. At 4-4 in the second set with Martin serving, the Russians squandered two break points. With Olkhovsky serving to stay in the set and 40-15 ahead, Kafelnikov netted a backhand return. The Americans took the set 6-4.

The Russians slumped to 5-1 down in the third set, which they eventually lost 6-3. The match, played before a fiercely partisan crowd, took less than two hours.

Kafelnikov, the golden boy of Russian tennis and ranked sixth in the world, walked despondently from the court at the end. He now faces Sampras in the reverse singles today and Chesnokov plays Jim Courier, who lost to Kafelnikov in straight sets on Friday.