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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

French Fashion Dramatic Davis Win

MALMO, Sweden -- France won the Davis Cup after a gripping nine-hour feast of top quality tennis and two five-set thrillers that Stefan Edberg described as "the best tennis that can ever happen."


Arnaud Boetsch overcame a spirited challenge from Edberg's stand-in, Nicklas Kulti, to win the last compelling five-set rubber 7-6, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6, 10-8.


It was the first time since the Davis Cup began in 1900 that the deciding match of the final had gone to five sets.


After such a display, no one deserved to lose, and the exhausted Kulti, in tears, was comforted by Edberg as the French team danced with joy.


Edberg, veteran of over 10 years of Davis Cup campaigns, said afterwards: "I was lucky to have been here today. It was the most exciting Davis Cup match I've ever been to. I feel privileged."


The trophy is France's second against the odds in five years. Under Yannick Noah's charismatic leadership they upset the mighty United States in Lyon in 1991, and Noah brought them to Sweden as underdogs again.


But Sweden's fortunes suffered just six games into the first match on Friday when Edberg twisted his ankle and went on to lose to Cedric Pioline, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.


Sweden's top player, Thomas Enqvist, hit back by beating Arnaud Boetsch 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 in straight sets before Edberg, playing his last competition before retiring, was forced to pull out of Sunday's decisive match and Kulti, who towards the end of the match was suffering from cramp, fought like a lion.


"I would have done anything to win this match," Kulti said afterwards. "I just couldn't do more."


Kulti, ranked 32 places below the Frenchman, earned three match points in the 14th game of the final set, but he was unable to convert them. Boetsch, using all his cool and speed around the court, hung on with some fine serving before breaking the Swede in the 17th game and serving for the match.


Earlier, top Swede Thomas Enqvist won another nerve-sapping five-set marathon against Cedric Pioline 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 9-7 to keep the home team in the tie after France had clinched Saturday's doubles when Guy Forget and Guillaume Raoux won 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 over Kulti and Jonas Bjorkman.


"That was the longest match of my career," Enqvist said afterward. "And probably the most emotional."


It was the first time in 11 years that the final remained undecided until a fifth match, and the converted factory housing the tie erupted in noisy Gallic celebration.


Noah hoisted Edberg, winner of six grand slams in a 14-year professional career, onto his shoulders and carried him round the arena to wild applause.


"However happy we are, we will not leave without the whole team voicing our respects and appreciation for Stefan -- for all he has done," Noah said.


Noah described the final rubber as "beautiful."


"In the history of Davis Cup there has never been a day like it," he added.