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Heat Is Already on U.S.

Tennis: Martin's status in Davis Cup doubles is uncertain after he collapses during outdoor draw ceremony.

September 19, 1997|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — It began as an odd blend of sports and politics. The Davis Cup teams of the United States and Australia assembled here Thursday on the steps of the Capitol with a U.S. senator acting as master of ceremonies, cracking stale jokes.

Not long into the draw ceremony for today's Davis Cup semifinal, Todd Martin upstaged Sen. John Breaux (D.-La.), fainting dead away during the politician's opening remarks.

Standing in a broiling sun and already weakened by a stomach ailment, Martin slumped to the ground and was caught by teammate Jim Courier and U.S. Captain Tom Gullikson while assembled dignitaries and curious tourists looked on.

Unaware of the drama unfolding behind him, which had drawn the crowd's attention, Breaux droned on. A few steps away, the 6-foot-6 Martin was lying on the pavement, the entire U.S. Davis Cup delegation forming a protective circle around him.

Response was prompt. Martin was treated quickly by physicians from both Davis Cup teams and by a Capitol physician and paramedic called to the scene. After some minutes, Martin was put in a wheelchair and taken to the Capitol infirmary.

U.S. Davis Cup officials said Martin had been suffering from gastroenteritis and was dehydrated.

The ceremony was resumed and the order of play was established for the best-of-five matches. Today's singles pit No. 2 Michael Chang against No. 3 Patrick Rafter, the newly crowned U.S. Open champion, and No. 1 Pete Sampras against No. 21 Mark Philippoussis, one of the hardest servers on the men's tour.

For Saturday's doubles match, the Australians will field the world's best doubles team, Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge. Martin's stomach problem clouds the doubles picture for the Americans.

The matches will be played on slow hard courts at the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center and involve the two most successful Davis Cup nations. The United States has won the Cup 31 times, more than any other country. Australia is second, with 26 titles.

The nations' approach to Davis Cup competition, which began in 1900, is somewhat different. Gullikson has great difficulty rounding up willing players, whereas Australian Captain John Newcombe has tradition on his side.

"We have a great historical background of playing for [our] country and what it means," he said. "Australians are very proud of wearing the green and gold. It's the greatest honor you can have. Not to stand up and represent your country is not looked upon real good back in Australia."

Standing up was the one thing Martin had difficulty doing Thursday. According to Dr. George Fareed, Martin woke up early Thursday morning with diarrhea and vomiting. Fareed, the U.S. Davis Cup physician, treated Martin for dehydration but a bumpy bus ride to the Capitol and the warm weather eventually took their toll.

After fainting, Martin was taken back to his hotel room, where he was treated. Fareed said Thursday afternoon that Martin was recovering.

"Any time someone faints, you have to take that seriously," Gullikson said. "But he's already cracked a few jokes. He'll rebound. With a day to recover, he'll be fine."

Gullikson had to jettison Alex O'Brien from the team Wednesday night to make room for Martin, who has spent most of the year recovering from injuries. But the 27-year-old Martin--like doubles player Jim Courier--has been a Davis Cup loyalist and Gullikson said experience in Davis Cup's often difficult playing conditions would play a role in his selections.

The possible doubles combinations are Martin-Sampras, Martin-Courier and Sampras-Courier. Chang has never been expected to play doubles. Gullikson has until one hour before the match Saturday to name his team.

Even though Courier was named to the team to play doubles and Sampras singles, it always has been possible that Sampras would be called on for doubles, as was the case against Russia in 1995 when the U.S. last won the Davis Cup.

Sunday's reverse singles will have Sampras playing Rafter and Chang playing Philippoussis. The first team to win three matches wins the Cup.

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