Tennis: Martin's bravery in vain

TODD MARTIN was sick, distracted and an emotional mess after a bout of heat exhaustion on Sunday morning, but still showed plenty of heart before going down to a five-set defeat in the match that decided the Davis Cup quarter-final between the United States and Australia.

The American, who needed intravenous fluids before going on court, gave the world No 2 Patrick Rafter a real fight before losing 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in a three-hour 13-minute hardcourt struggle that gave Australia an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the Centennial Celebration tie. Australia won the match 4-1

"I am pleased I had the courage to go out and play and play well," said Martin. "I am very disappointed that I lost."

And the US captain, Tom Gullikson, said: "He played a heroic match."

Martin led Rafter 3-0 in the final set in on-court temperatures that reached 128F before Rafter, twice winner of the US Open, rose to the occasion and broke the lanky American's serve three successive times in winning six of the last seven games to clinch the tie.

Gullikson sought to replace Martin with Pete Sampras before the match - a move that was greeted with scepticism as the Australians had suspected they would somehow have to face Sampras in singles despite his insistence he would play only doubles in the tie.

Martin, one of the most respected players on the ATP Tour, set the record straight after the match. The player said he told Gullikson he was not fit to play Sunday's match against Rafter after he felt ill following his morning warm-up at Longwood Cricket Club.

A neutral doctor, ordered in by the referee, Stefan Fransson, overruled the Americans and decided Martin was fit to play.

Rafter, who noted that Martin looked very pale when he came out for the match, said he was bothered by not knowing until the last minute who his opponent would be, but never thought the pre-match confusion was a matter of gamesmanship.

"You are not going to get a better sportsman in the world than Todd, and I have a lot of respect for Todd. I never once saw Todd trying to pull something over me," said Rafter. "But as the match got along he became more and more into it and I knew then that I was in a lot of trouble."