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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sampras Show Pulls Out of Town With Cup

The gigantic election poster hanging over the red clay tennis court said "Our Home Is Russia," but Pete Sampras just kicked down Russia's front door and took the silverware.


The home in this case is Moscow's Olimpiisky Sports Complex, where Sampras and the rest of the American team walked off with the 1995 Davis Cup title on Sunday, and the 200-kilogram silver-and-wood trophy that goes with it.


Sampras dominated Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to give the United States a 3-1 lead in the best-of-five World Group finals, after which Andrei Chesnokov beat Jim Courier 6-7 (1-7), 7-5, 6-0 in a meaningless finale to make the score 3-2 for the Americans.


"The Russians were looking at me as the weak link on the slow red clay," Sampras said after the match. "To come here and play on my worst surface against very tough opponents and a very tough crowd ... That "I feel like I've earned the money the USTA [United States Tennis Association] is giving me," he said. The win is worth $800,000 to be divided among the team, a pittance for the 24-year-old star who has already won more than $22 million in his brief career.


Kafelnikov, who after last week's draw for match order said that Courier was to be more feared than Sampras on clay courts, said at a press conference after Sunday's match: "Maybe I've changed my mind."


The win capped a personal three-Pete for Sampras, whose dominance overcame worries about the court surface. He was a surprise choice to team up with Todd Martin for a 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 doubles win over Kafelnikov and Andrei Olkhovskiy on Saturday after having collapsed with leg cramps on-court Friday at the end of his opening 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4 win over Chesnokov.


But after Kafelnikov beat Courier in straight sets in Friday's second match, Sampras offered his services to the Americans' non-playing captain, Tom Gullikson. "Obviously when he wants to, Pete can play some doubles," said Gullikson. "You would not be a very smart captain to turn him down."


The Saturday result demoralized the Russians, who had said publicly that they expected to win the doubles, and gave Sampras more confidence, having followed a shaky start with a solid win. But his best was yet to come.


Sampras broke Kafelnikov twice, once on a double fault, and lost only two service points in winning the first set of Sunday's clincher. Things didn't get any better in the second set for the Russian, who had a 71-28 match record this year, but was only 8-24 after losing the first set.


Sampras broke Kafelnikov again in what was his best game of the weekend, the fifth game of the second set. Kafelnikov began with what seemed like a sure winner, cross-court and deep, but Sampras hit a forehand straight down the line on the dead run for a winner of his own: 0-15.


Then, caught on the wrong foot by a bad bounce, he hit a backhand winner that sliced away from Kafelnikov: 0-30. Kafelnikov drove Sampras deep to the backhand again, but this time the American hit a clean passing shot that caught Kafelnikov halfway to the net: 0-40.


Finally, Sampras hit a cross-court shot and followed it toward the net, cutting off the down-the-line response. Kafelnikov, with no easy shot left, tried a backhand drop shot while running away from the net at top speed. The low-percentage, almost no-percentage, shot hit the net for game.


Sampras looked to be slowing somewhat in the third set, but Kafelnikov couldn't find a way to win.


"The third set was crucial," said Kafelnikov. "If I managed to win, it might have been otherwise."


Sampras, who was taking salt tablets and rubbing his legs with liniment during changeovers, said he did not know how effective he could have been in a fourth or fifth set.


Kafelnikov started the third set in promising fashion, winning his service and then forcing Sampras to stave off five break-points in a seven deuce game before finally losing.


The two then traded breaks in the third and sixth games. Sampras broke the 21-year-old in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead, but Kafelnikov fought right back to set up the tiebreaker.


Sampras took advantage of a couple unforced errors and two service winners, including a second-serve hook serve, to win 7-4, finishing off the Russian with a booming ace, his 16th.


Kafelnikov could only muster seven aces. Sampras also ate up the Russian's weak second serve, winning almost half the return points on second service. He also got 20 points coming to the net behind his own service.


After the final point, the American team poured onto the court, having won their record 31st Davis Cup. Andre Agassi, the world's No. 2 player forced by a chest injury into a spectator's role, was the first player to congratulate Sampras and the two exchanged hugs.


Friday's match was Sampras' first singles win in a Davis Cup final, after two losses in 1991 to the French. "I have a lot of experience since then," he said. "I was out of my element with the pressure and the crowd [in 1991]."


Gullikson said that Sampras, who already has seven Grand Slam titles, now has learned what he needs to do to win the elusive French Open, the only major he lacks.


"He lost in the French because he made too many errors," said Gullikson. "He picked his spots to be aggressive today. He can grind it out with anybody, he just needs the right mix of shots."


The visitors, who left Moscow at dawn Monday, said they saw little of the capital. They got as far from their hotel -- the Metropol -- as Red Square, where they got their pictures taken in front of St. Basil's Cathedral. "For them that's a lot," said Page Crosland of the USTA."We've been to Moscow and we haven't been to Moscow," was how Gullikson summed it up.