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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Philippoussis Plays Hero as Aussies Take Cup

NICE, France -- Mark Philippoussis, at odds with Australia's tennis establishment a year ago, was his nation's hero Sunday as he led it to its 27th Davis Cup crown.

"Yes, why not," he said, when asked if he thought he was a hero, but he pointed out it was, above all, a team effort and a well-deserved victory for Australia.

"I feel great and the whole team feels great. We've really felt, as a team, we deserve it," he said.

The world No. 19 crushed France's top player Cedric Pioline 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 to give Australia an unassailable 3-1 lead with one reverse singles still to play between Lleyton Hewitt and Sebastien Grosjean.

Australia eventually won 3-2 after Grosjean took the last rubber 6-4, 6-3.

"I've never concentrated or played as well as today. This is definitely the best win of my life. It's the real start of my tennis career," Philippoussis said. Pioline, who helped France win the cup in 1996, said: "He was very solid from start to finish. He tried a lot of things and with lots of success, especially on crucial points.

"I had to do more to force him into mistakes, but I wasn't able to. He played a big, big match.

"He was maybe lucky at times with the net and the lines but he deserved to win," said Pioline, who has now lost all three of his matches against Philippoussis.

Philippoussis, who gave Australia the first point with a three-set win over Grosjean in the opening singles Friday, was his team's first-string singles player because Pat Rafter is injured.

Last year, the 23-year-old right hander from Melbourne refused to play Davis Cup for Australia.

He was upset when Newcombe and assistant coach Tony Roche sat in Rafter's camp during the all-Australian U.S. Open final, which Rafter won.

"I've admitted in the past I made mistakes and said some things that were wrong," he said Sunday.

This year Rafter and Philippoussis teamed up in the first-round victory over Zimbabwe before a knee injury to Philippoussis put him out of Wimbledon and out of Australia's Davis Cup quarterfinal and semifinal. "The guys did it in Boston," Philippoussis said of the quarterfinal victory over the United States. "I was injured for Wimbledon. ... I don't know if I could have won it, but I'd take this over Wimbledon any time."

Australia, which last won in 1986, took its tally to 27 victories.

Only the United States has won the trophy more times, 31, in 87 finals since the Davis Cup was created in 1900.

Australia came into the centennial final as slight favorite with doubts as to how it would cope on the clay surface chosen by the French.

In the end, the Australians belied their traditional dislike for the surface as Hewitt gave Pioline a run for his money in three tight sets Friday and Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge took Saturday's doubles in four sets.

Newcombe said Philippoussis had shown he had the clay-court game to go on and win the French Open.

"That was the best and most intelligent match Mark has played in his life," an elated Newcombe said afterward.

"He had no highs and lows in the match, he was always playing to a high standard. Now everyone knows he can win the French Open," he said.

Philippoussis, however, remained cautious.

"I don't know, it took a lot out of me to win this match and to win Roland Garros you need seven of these victories. I've just had two," Philippoussis said.