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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Goes Crazy With Triumph in Davis Cup

APThe Russian team rising from their seats after Youzhny sealed the Davis Cup in Paris.
Jubilant Russians celebrated their first ever Davis Cup tennis title on Monday, splashing triumphant images over all major newspapers and newscasts as President Vladimir Putin personally thanked the victorious team.

"It's a major and bright victory for all Russian sport," Putin said in televised comments from China, where he was on a state visit.

Mikhail Youzhny sealed Russia's victory by beating France's Paul-Henri Mathieu in a stunning game during which he overcame an two-set deficit in a dramatic rebound, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. The victory made the little-known 20-year-old an instant hero for the nation, which has long sought a Davis Cup victory.

"I would like to thank all our athletes, all three tennis players who took part in the Davis Cup. Each of them made his contribution and together they achieved a great result," Putin said. "And I want to congratulate all sport fans."

Former President Boris Yeltsin was at Bercy stadium for all five matches and was jubilant at the result. "This is a dream for us," Yeltsin said Monday on Channel One television. "We won in a difficult struggle."

Russia's national television channels, none of which showed Sunday's Youzhny-Mathieu game, tried to make up for the omission Monday by repeatedly showing Youzhny's triumph, along with officials' praise for him.

"It's a victory that can help us raise our children," Vyacheslav Fetisov, a prominent hockey player who now serves as the head of the government's sports committee, said on Rossia television.

Youzhny, one of the most inexperienced players to feature in the title match, became the first player to come from two sets down to win the Cup.

"Heroes of Russia!" gushed the Sport-Express daily in a front-page spread. "Thank you fate for allowing me to see this. Thank you Marat! Thank you Yevgeny! And, of course, thank you Mikhail! You achieved the impossible!!!"

"We can't always lose!" the mass circulation Moskovsky Komsomolets exulted above a picture of Safin.

Russia, then competing as the Soviet Union, began playing Davis Cup tennis in 1962, but the game was long labeled a "bourgeois" pursuit. Tennis did not take off until Yeltsin, a keen tennis fan, patronized the sport and encouraged many of his aides to join him.

Safin, who won both his singles matches at Bercy, and Kafelnikov, now considering retirement, boosted the sport's popularity in Russia as the newly established Kremlin Cup, set up in 1990, brought the sport's top names home.

But it was Youzhny, a ball boy the last time Russia appeared in a final in 1995, who stole the day on Sunday with a thrilling singles win after he was called to replace a fatigued Kafelnikov in an historic gamble by coach Tarpishchev.

But the last bitter note from sports fans was reserved for mainstream Russian television, after millions were shut out of the game, aired live only on satellite channels.

"Why, oh why, did not a single one of our channels show Russia what she should be proud of?" Sport-Express asked. (Reuters, AP)