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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Davis Cup Hinges on One Decision

U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson said the decision to play Pete Sampras in doubles was easy: "I'd take Pete in singles, doubles, triples, even golf," he said. Then he smiled. "Well, maybe not golf. I've seen him golf."


After the weekend's play was over, both teams agreed that the outcome of the 1995 Davis Cup final hinged on that faith in Sampras' tennis game and Gullikson's subsequent decision an hour and a half before Saturday's match to play his ace.


Sampras and Todd Martin disposed of the Russian duo of Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andrei Olkhovskiy in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3, with Sampras providing most of the key points for the U.S. team.


Gullikson had declared Sampras and Martin first choice of the Americans for doubles until Andre Agassi was forced to the sidelines with a lingering chest injury originally suffered in the September semifinals win over Sweden. At that point, Richey Reneberg was added to the team and announced as Martin's doubles partner, with Sampras taking Agassi's singles berth.


Sampras later said he and Gullikson had discussed the possibility of playing doubles after Friday night's singles, when Sampras collapsed with cramps at the end of his five-set win over Andrei Chesnokov.


"I told Tom I would play if he wanted me to," said Sampras. "But the decision was his." Gullikson waited until Sampras practiced Saturday morning to make sure there were no lingering problems from the cramping.


At 12:30 p.m., half an hour before the deadline to notify the referee of a change in his team, Gullikson pulled Reneberg and put Sampras in with Martin.


Then all that remained was finding a set of whites for Sampras, who usually wears off-white prints, so the team would not violate the rule saying teams must wear similar clothing. Sampras wound up in one of Gullikson's shirts.


Gullikson said that Reneberg, a late injury replacement for Agassi, accepted the decision without complaint.


None of the points Sampras provided was bigger than when he held serve against two break points in the first set with the U.S. team already down a break at 2-4, hitting three winners, an ace, and forcing two weak returns out of the nine points needed to win the game. The Americans then broke Kafelnikov at love and Olkhovskiy at 15 points while holding their own serves. Down 5-6 and needing to hold serve to force a tiebreaker, Kafelnikov went up 30-0, then collapsed, with a double fault and two outright winners on service return giving the game, set -- and to all intents and purposes -- match to the visitors.


The Russians had been counting on the doubles all week, with Kafelnikov saying the Americans would all but concede the doubles and concentrate on the singles.


Gullikson said he had seen Kafelnikov's comment in the paper and was surprised that the Russians expected their opponents to concede a point in a five-point final.


The U.S. captain said he did not want to take credit for the win. "The players get all the credit," said Gullikson. "One way or the other, I would take responsibility for the decision. That's a coach's job."


Then he smiled again. "That's why thousands of coaches are fired every year."