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Another McEnroe Suffers Davis Cup Disappointment

Tennis: No title forthcoming again as U.S. eliminated in opening round by Switzerland.

February 12, 2001|From Associated Press

BASEL, Switzerland — Picking up where his older brother left off, Patrick McEnroe discovered the perils of playing Davis Cup tennis without his country's best players.

The U.S. team was eliminated from the opening round of the showcase event Sunday for the first time since 1993, losing, 3-2, to Switzerland in McEnroe's first series since being appointed captain in December.

Leading 2-1 entering the final day, the Swiss got the clinching victory from Roger Federer, who defeated Jan-Michael Gambill, 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

"It was just total relief, total happiness at one time," Federer said. "I was so happy for the team, happy for Switzerland, to beat such a big country."

The victory gave Switzerland an insurmountable lead in the best-of-five series, before Andy Roddick beat George Bastl, 6-3, 6-4, in the final match. The Swiss, who have never won the Davis Cup, play France in the next round.

The U.S. has won the Davis Cup a record 31 times, and this was the fifth time the Americans have made such an early exit.

John McEnroe captained the U.S. last year when the Americans were swept in the semifinals by Spain. He quit in November amid frustrations about the tournament's format and his inability to persuade the top U.S. players to compete.

The Americans, playing without stars Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras and relying on youth and 30-year-old Todd Martin, learned again their B team isn't good enough.

"We came here and we had a great week practicing," Gambill said. "You couldn't have a better captain than Patrick. He's great and he's saying all the right things to me out there, but Roger simply played better than I did today."

Still, McEnroe intends to stick with youth when the Americans play in September in a must-win series to return to the World Group--the elite 16 of Davis Cup. Possible opponents in the April 11 draw include Finland, Argentina or Belgium.

"It's time to start looking to the future," McEnroe said. "Exactly what that means I haven't decided yet. I'm going to take a team that's young, yes, but that can win the match."

In other Davis Cup play, it was: Australia 4, Ecuador 1; Brazil 4, Morocco 1; Sweden 3, Czech Republic 2; Russia 3, Slovakia 2; France 5, Belgium 0; Germany 3, Romania 2; and the Netherlands 4, Spain 1.

Gambill played well enough to beat some players, but Federer was too good.

"Things just didn't go right for me on a few points. In that first set I had set point, I ripped a forehand into the corner and he came up with the slimiest lob I've ever seen . . . You got to hand it to him."

Last season, the U.S. twice trailed, 2-1, entering Sunday's singles--but they had Agassi both times, against Zimbabwe and the Czech Republic, and Sampras for one. This time both declined to play.

"This is the team we have," Gambill said. "These are the guys who want to play Davis Cup. . . . We gave it our all, we gave it 100%. You really can't do any more than that."

The 1993 U.S. team was defending the Cup when it lost in the first round to Australia with a team led by Brad Gilbert and David Wheaton. Refusing to play for the Americans were Jim Courier, Sampras, Agassi and John McEnroe.

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