France rejoices as new musketeers lift the Davis Cup

Action replay: Sunday 1 December 1991

The feats of the Musketeers 60 years ago will remain large in the history of French sport but a new chapter was written most gloriously yesterday when France won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1932. Victory for Guy Forget over Pete Sampras gave them a winning 3-1 lead amid scenes of jubilation rarely, if ever, witnessed in any tennis arena. It was not surprising, but indeed sensible, that the decision was taken not to play the fifth rubber.

The feats of the Musketeers 60 years ago will remain large in the history of French sport but a new chapter was written most gloriously yesterday when France won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1932. Victory for Guy Forget over Pete Sampras gave them a winning 3-1 lead amid scenes of jubilation rarely, if ever, witnessed in any tennis arena. It was not surprising, but indeed sensible, that the decision was taken not to play the fifth rubber.

You could forgive the watching 93-year-old Jean Borotra, who played in the last victorious team, restricting his celebrations to clapping. The remainder of the 8,000 crowd in the Palais des Sports here hugged, danced and sang in a mass exorcism of two generations of failure. Yannick Noah, the French captain, also sang, using the word loosely, at the head of a conga line which snaked around the court in one of many laps of honour. The Legion d'Honneur next, one would suspect.

It would not have gained a point in the Euroviosion Song Contest but in this contest, as the American captain Tom Gorman was later to concede, the French won all the crucial points at all the important moments. They deserved their moment of triumph.

Forget revelled in his. He threw his racket, then himself, to the floor and lay on his back, to be joined in ecstatic embrace by Noah, who had leapt the net and would have created a new high jump record had there been a bar. The rest of the French squad followed to form a joyous scrum

Sampras, a 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 loser, walked quietly and disconsolately off court and through the exit, as did Gorman and the rest of the vanquished American squad. The absence of any handshake - it was almost 15 minutes before Noah and Gorman exchanged congratulations and commisertaions - reflected no lack of courtesy on either part, merely that France, the team and the nation, were celebrating.

And how they celebrated. Henri Leconte, the hero of the previous two days, expended the energy he had been saving for the encounter with Andre Agassi in running round waving a huge French flag and he shed tears when Noah told spectators of the letter that Leconte's young son, Maxim, had sent. "Papa, win the Cup for me and bring it home," it read.

Forget threw his sweatbands and his shirt into the stands and Noah, when he was not being carried on his squad's shoulders, became director turned cameraman, using a video camera to record the occasion for posterity. A colourful spectacle to look back on instead of those sepia photographs of the deeds of Borotra and Co.

The Musketeers were four, but Forget and Leconte were just two... and not that willing to be compared. "We have not achieved one hundreth of what they did," Forget said, though those who would disagree numbered many millions yesterday. A victory parade along the Champs-Elysées seemed a distinct possibility.

The tale of two heroes had begun with Leconte's defeat of Sampras and ended in another reverse for the former US Open champion, who was to discover that the unique pressure and special atmosphere generated by the Davis Cup can distort the messages which the brain tries to send to the racket hand. How else to explain the easiest of forehands which he missed when the match was most delicately balanced at the start of the third set. Sampras seemed beaten from that moment.

If Sampras succumbed to the moment, then Forget found it an inspiration. Never more so than at 30-40, 5-3 when serving for the third set. The ace was one of 17 he produced but, coming on a second serve, there had never been a braver one. "There are times when you have to take risks," he said.

Two more aces in a row secured that set and his nerve, previously not his strongest suit, held throughout an increasingly tense fourth set, played against a background of constant cacophonous frenzy.

The Americans underestimated both the strength of the opposition and the strength of the opposition's desire, as Forget suggested. "I don't think the American team realised how much the Davis Cup meant to the French team and the French nation," he said.

"We have the soccer World Cup, the Tour de France and the Davis Cup. There are probably 10 different things more important than the Davis Cup in America."

The losers shoud have read their history. French tennis underwent a revolution in 1968 in order to win the Davis Cup and the revolutionary leader, Philippe Chatrier, was in Lyons to see the fulfilment of his dream. "It was a long time coming, but it was worth it," he said.

The Davis Cup final of 1991 seemed a formality for the United States. Although played in Lyon, France were massive underdogs against a side which included Agassi and Sampras. But, as always, the French had other ideas.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz