Tennis: Davis Cup joy for Sweden

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The Independent Online
Sweden swept to their sixth Davis Cup triumph yesterday when Jonas Bjorkman and Nicklas Kulti beat Todd Martin and Jonathan Stark 6-4, 6- 4, 6-4, in the doubles of the final against the United States.

That victory gave Sweden a winning 3-0 lead after they won both singles on the opening day against the Americans, who were 3-1 on favourites before the final to win their 32nd title here.

Bjorkman, after winning the match with an ace, leaped into Kulti's arms in joy as the 11,000 fans in the Scandinavium roared their approval. "I don't think there were too many people who thought we would be here today. But we are here and it's good." he said. "This is such a great feeling. Today was perfect." Kulti said. The United States have been beaten only three times by Sweden in 10 Davis Cup meetings, all in Gothenburg.

Bjorkman and Kulti were always in command against an American pair playing only their second match together, with Bjorkman the dominant player on the court. Stark lost his serve three games in succession to hand the first two sets to the Swedes.

After breaking Martin early in the third set, Bjorkman allowed the Americans a lifeline by double-faulting on break point to make the score 3-3. But Martin's serve again broke under the pressure in the next game.

Bjorkman, who beat Michael Chang in four sets in the opening singles of the tie, gave the Americans another three break points in the final game before sealing victory with an ace.

"I just think Todd and I lost to a better team today. They came up with the big shots, big returns and big serves when they needed them," said Stark, who was drafted into the team this week after Alex O'Brien was injured.

"His [Bjorkman's] returns put a ton of pressure on us and I think we had to capitalise on every point we had against Kulti because Jonas was rock solid on every return," Martin said.

It was appropriate that Kulti and Bjorkman should have been on court for the deciding match as they were both involved in last year's heart- breaking 3-2 defeat by France in Malmo. Kulti was preferred to Bjorkman for the final singles against Arnaud Boetsch, after Stefan Edberg was injured, and lost 10-8 in the fifth. As the French celebrated, Kulti broke down in tears at courtside. Bjorkman and Kulti also lost the doubles rubber.

Since then Bjorkman has risen from 69 in the singles rankings to four and has proved a worthy successor to Edberg, anchoring the Swedes throughout the year.

Pete Sampras, the world No 1, watched the match on television in his hote, nursing an injury to his left leg. The calf muscle pull caused him to withdraw against Magnus Larsson on Friday in the third set. He will need to rest for three to four weeks.

"I think I got this from overplaying. Not giving myself enough time for rest. It's my fourth trip to Europe in the past month and a half," Sampras said. "It's too much tennis," adding that he would have to think about how many tournaments to enter in the future.

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