Australia win Davis Cup

Mark Philippoussis led Australia to Davis Cup glory on Sunday with a comprehensive 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 win against French No 1 Cedric Pioline that gave his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in the centenary final held in Nice, France.

Mark Philippoussis led Australia to Davis Cup glory on Sunday with a comprehensive 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 win against French No 1 Cedric Pioline that gave his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in the centenary final held in Nice, France.

The win guaranteed Australia its 27th Davis Cup victory and its first since 1986.

The partisan French crowd had hoped that the match was turning when Pioline won the second set after saving a set point.

But the big-serving 23-year-old - who didn't play any Davis Cup matches last year because of a dispute with team bosses - reacted brilliantly, cranking up his famed service and pummeling Pioline with a series of powerful forehands.

By the end, Philippoussis was in total command, firing 15 aces and winning in just two hours, 42 minutes.

"That was t match Mark has played with his head in his life," said Australian captain John Newcombe, a four-time Davis Cup winner as a player. "He didn't have highs and lows, just highs."

After winning the final point Philippoussis was lifted high into the air by his teammates, as hundreds of Australians in the crowd began wild celebrations, waving banners and throwing inflatable kangaroos into the air.

The 30-year-old Pioline, perhaps sensing that his last chance of a Davis Cup win had gone, was in tears.

Australia had begun the day with a 2-1 lead after winning Saturday's doubles clash.

Philippoussis looked especially nervous as the players came onto the court amidst a cauldron of noise from the 10,000 crowd, but it was Pioline who began more uneasily, double-faulting on break point in the first game to give the Aussies an early boost.

Philippoussis coupled his famed big serve with a series of powerful forehand groundstrokes that rattled Pioline, who double-faulted again on Philippoussis' first set point to put Australia one set ahead.

Philippoussis missed a great chance to take the second set, wasting a set point when Pioline was serving at 4-5.

The Australian, stretching his six-feet-four-inch frame to reach a drop shot, put the ball well wide.

In the next game he seemed to lose patience, playing a wayward forehand when defending a break point.

When Pioline made it one set all, the French crowd hoped that their dreams of a win could come true.

But Philippoussis, after a pep talk from Newcombe, came out with all guns blazing, taking the third set in just 32 minutes.

The 1998 US Open finalist turned on the style in the fourth.

At 1-1, he blasted four powerful winners past a bemused Pioline, including one blistering forehand onto the line that had the Frenchman holding his head in his hands.

Philippoussis said it was the most important win of his career.

"This is the best moment of my life," he said. "I concentrated really well. I can honestly say that I heard no noise from the crowd, just the ball hitting the line, the line calls and my heart beating."

"I got injured at Wimbledon this year and who knows if I could have gone on to win there. But I would take this for a Wimbledon win any time," he said.

Australia, which eliminated Zimbabwe, the United States and Russia to reach its 44th Davis Cup final, went into the third day as firm favorite to win the match.

Only five teams have triumphed this century after trailing 2-1, most recently in 1964 when Fred Stolle and Roy Emerson won on the last day to give Australia victory against the United States.

Since 1978, every team that has won the doubles match has gone on to lift the fabled trophy.

Australia's win is especially sweet for Newcombe.

The team nearly withdrew before its quarterfinal against the United States when organizers gave the Americans home advantage to celebrate the event's centenary.

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