Philippoussis the hero as Australia clinch Davis Cup crown

  • Other Sport
  • Monday, 01 Dec 2003

MELBOURNE: Mark Philippoussis fought through the pain of a shoulder injury to blow away world No 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero in an adrenalin-charged fifth set and clinch the Davis Cup tennis final for Australia here yesterday. 

Just as he did in the Nice final against France four years ago, 27-year-old Philippoussis secured victory in the tennis teams’ competition with a courageous 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 2-6, 6-0 victory in three hours 13 minutes to deliver Australia a 3-1 victory in the tie played on a portable grasscourt. 

It was Australia’s 28th title, second only to the United States, and their first home triumph since beating Sweden on grass at Kooyong here in 1986. 

The 'Scud’ looked down and out as Ferrero surged back after dropping the opening two sets and had all the momentum leading into the fifth and deciding set. 

Adding to the drama, Philippoussis took a lengthy injury time-out courtside for a team chiropractor to treat a painful right serving shoulder before he resumed and conjured one of the biggest turnarounds in a Davis Cup final. 

Despite wincing in pain from each serve, Philippoussis ripped through Ferrero’s serve three times in the fifth set to seal his most important career victory. 

“I came out thinking 'I don’t care how bad the arm was hurting, just put everything into this last set’, there was no way I was going to pull out,” Philippoussis told a post-match press conference. 

“Especially, 6-0 in the fifth, I don’t honestly know ... I just thought 'give it everything’ and when I was returning 'just chip and come in after everything’, if he got past me, then too good.” 

Philippoussis fed off the energy of the cheering home crowd and grew stronger as Ferrero wilted under the Australian’s renewed challenge. 

Teammates feared Philippoussis had spent his last and Lleyton Hewitt was warming up in the team dressing room preparing for the final singles rubber against Carlos Moya, but in the end it didn’t prove necessary. 

“The crowd were incredible and this is what Davis Cup is all about, especially playing at home, there was no way I would have got through without them,” Philippoussis said. 

“Not only do they get you up, but they get the opposition down too. It just numbs the pain a little bit, they were just so loud, they were awesome.” 

Philippoussis said he may have torn a muscle and will have a scan today to check the extent of the injury. 

The Scud felt Ferrero lost his rhythm in the fifth set, as he got stronger. 

It was wildly contrasting match for Philippoussis, who began like a bomb, a far cry from his sluggish start in his losing four-set match against clay-courter Moya on Friday. 

Philippoussis, whose power serve was on song in the opening two sets, stuttered in the third and fourth sets as Ferrero hit back. 

Philippoussis served a total of 21 aces, but conceded 16 double faults – half of them in the third and fourth sets – before claiming victory. 

The defeat was Ferrero’s second this weekend and he was surprised by the Australian’s recovery to end Spain’s title chances. 

“I was surprised that in spite of his injury and after the third and fourth sets, his level was down a little bit,” Ferrero said. “But he did so well in the fifth set and he went on to win. He played just that well.” 

The captains decided not to play the fifth singles rubber between Hewitt and Moya. 

Spain were bidding for only their second Davis Cup title after beating Australia on clay in Barcelona in 2000. 

“It’s clear that it’s harder when you play away from home,” said Spanish captain Jordi Arrese. “We have experienced a lot of problems in Australia, but I feel that overall we’ve done well. We’re leaving empty-handed, however, we’re holding our heads quite high.” – AFP  

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