Agassi and Sampras lead US Davis Cup squad

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Top-ranked Andre Agassi and Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras will help John McEnroe begin his reign as Davis Cup captain when the United States travels to Zimbabwe for a first-round match in February.

Top-ranked Andre Agassi and Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras will help John McEnroe begin his reign as Davis Cup captain when the United States travels to Zimbabwe for a first-round match in February.

With Todd Martin also on the four-man team announced on Thursday, the American squad will boast three of the world's top seven singles players. The fourth member, Alex O'Brien, is ranked seventh in the world in doubles.

"I don't see them beating us, but having said that, we have got to go down and play the match," McEnroe, who as a player led the United States to five titles and two other Davis Cup finals, said in a telephone conference call.

Zimbabwe's top players are brothers Byron and Wayne Black, both All-Americans while at USC. In 1998, Zimbabwe shocked Australia in a first-round series, a result that was reversed this year as Australia went on to win its 27th Davis Cup title.

"If Pete and Andre play well, I can pretty much just sit there with my hands underneath my pants and watch them win the Davis Cup," McEnroe said.

Agassi, who refused to play Davis Cup since April 1998 in a feud with the US Tennis Association, said he would play again when the USTA selected McEnroe as captain.

Sampras had not played in the international team competition since 1997 until he showed up in Boston in July to play doubles in a losing effort against Australia.

Asked why he decided to play Davis Cup this year, Sampras joked: "Pretty much had a gun to my head from Mac."

Sampras, who will be playing Davis Cup for a seventh year, said being sidelined by a back injury "definitely gave me a lot of time to really think about these next couple of years and what I want to be a part of. I feel like I have achieved some goals over these last couple of yeas and Davis Cup is going to be much more of a priority for me at least for next year."

Sampras holds a 13-6 career Davis Cup record in singles and is 4-1 in doubles. After finishing as the top-ranked player for a record six consecutive years, Sampras wound up this year as No 3 after tying Roy Emerson for the most men's Grand Slam tournament singles titles with 12.

The Zimbabwe series will be the first time Agassi and Sampras have played on the same US Davis Cup team since the 1995 semi-final against Sweden.

The top-ranked Agassi will be playing his first Davis Cup match since helping the United States defeat Belgium in the 1998 quarter-finals. Agassi, who has a 26-5 Davis Cup singles record, is two singles victories shy of surpassing Arthur Ashe (27-5) for second place on the US Davis Cup victory list. McEnroe was 41-8.

Martin played the best tennis of his life this year, losing a five-setter to Agassi in the US Open final and qualifying for the season-ending ATP World Championships for the first time. He is ranked seventh in the world in singles.

He will be playing Davis Cup for a seventh straight year and is 11-6 in singles and 3-5 in doubles.

O'Brien won the US Open doubles this year with Sebastien Lareau of Canada and teamed with Sampras against Australia in the Davis Cup quarter-finals in July. He also won the ATP Tour World Doubles Championships with Lareau earlier this autumn and will be playing Davis Cup for a third year.

"I looked at my schedule next year and my priorities are the Slams and Davis Cup," Sampras said. "I am kind of not really going to let my ranking go, but ... I feel like Davis Cup is much more important to me."

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