© St. Petersburg Times, published December 2, 2002
20-year-old rallies Russia to Cup win
No deficit was too daunting for Russia or Mikhail Youzhny in the Davis Cup final.
Russia became the first finalist in 38 years to overcome a 2-1 deficit, beating defending champion France to claim its first title when Youzhny fought off a two-set hole in the last match Sunday in Paris.
Youzhny, a ball boy the last time Russia played in a Davis Cup final, won the last match in the best-of-five series. He rebounded from a two-set deficit to stun Paul-Henri Mathieu 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
"When I was down two sets to love, I told myself: 'I have to play my game, I have to do my best,' " Youzhny said. "I won this match because I'm in top form. And even though I'm young, I already have experience of big matches."
Russia became the sixth team to win a Davis Cup final after trailing 2-1. The last was Australia against the United States in 1964.
"It was really a tough match," Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev said. "I've never had such a tough match as the captain of the Russian team."
Youzhny entered with a 1-4 record in Cup play. But he was chosen to replace two-time Grand Slam tournament champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who was tired after playing singles Friday and doubles Saturday, losing both. Kafelnikov said he would retire if Russia won.
That seemed unlikely at the start of Sunday, when France held a 2-1 lead and hoped to continue another trend: The team winning doubles won the past 24 Cup finals.
But Marat Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion, tied the final by defeating Sebastien Grosjean 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (13-11) in the first match. Then the 32nd-ranked Youzhny fought back to top Mathieu in a showdown between 20-year-olds.
"Yevgeny was tired after the doubles," Safin said. "So we decided to put the young player. Why not?"
Russia lost Cup finals in 1994 and 1995. France was seeking its 10th title and first back-to-back championships since 1932. The French won last year's final in Australia.
French captain Guy Forget appeared to hold back tears as he thanked fans and players during the award ceremony.
"I put forward the best French players, but you guys were too strong for us," he said, looking at the Russian players.
WINTER SPORTS: American Travis Cabral won a moguls title in Tignes, France, at a World Cup freestyle ski meet. Americans Shannon Bahrke and Michelle Roark finished second and third, respectively, in the women's event. ... Olympic champion Apolo Anton Ohno (5 minutes, 10.544 seconds) won the 3,000 meters and claimed the overall title at a short-course speed-skating World Cup meet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Ohno, who won the 1,500 Friday, finished second in the 1,000 to clinch first place overall. ... Russia's Ilia Klimkin upset defending champion Takeshi Honda of Japan to win gold in men's figure skating at the NHK Trophy in Kyoto, Japan. ... Olympic champion Andre Lange (54.18) of Germany set a course record in Altenberg, Germany, piloting his bobsled to victory in a four-man World Cup event. ... Finland's Teemu Kattilakoski (1:24.59) anchored his team to a win in a cross-country World Cup mixed relay in Kuusamo, Finland. ... Switzerland's Therry Brunner won the men's halfpipe and Japan's Soko Yamaoka claimed the women's title at the first World Cup meet of the season in Laax, Switzerland. ... Austria's Stephan Eberharter (1:23.39) won a World Cup super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta. Bode Miller, the top American finisher, was seventh.
HORSES: Irish-bred Dress to Thrill, making her second start in the United States, rallied down the stretch to win the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes by a head at Hollywood Park. Golden Apples, the winner of three Grade I stakes this year, finished second. Dress to Thrill paid $16, $5.40 and $7.80. Golden Apples paid $3.20 and $3.40. In the $500,000 Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds, Johar rallied from last to win, returning $11.80, $6.20 and $4.60.
BOXING: Heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis is planning three fights starting in March, including bouts against Vitaly and Wladimir Klitschko and a rematch with Mike Tyson. Lewis, 37, expects the contract for the bout against Vitali Klitschko to be finalized within two weeks. Tyson will return to the ring against Clifford Etienne Feb. 22 in Memphis.
GYMNASTICS: American Sean Townsend finished third on the parallel bars in the World Cup at Stuttgart, Germany.
SOCCER: A fan was in grave condition with severe head injuries after falling 10 feet from the stands before an Italian League game between Modena and host Bologna.
OBITUARY: Trinity Christian (Gainesville) assistant football coach George Davis had a fatal heart attack after his team advanced to the state Class A semifinals. The 66-year-old was linebackers coach for the Conquerors. He also was the father of former major-league pitcher Storm Davis. Davis had the attack just after Trinity Christian beat P.K. Yonge 34-7 Friday night. He was given first aid but was pronounced dead at a local hospital. "He loved coaching, and the kids all loved him," said coach Verlon Dorminey, who knew Davis for 18 years. "He was always on an even keel, not a yeller but just a calm teacher of the game, and he had everyone's respect."