MOSCOW. (Olga Zakharova of Sovetsky Sport for RIA Novosti) - The silver salad bowl, the main Davis Cup trophy, will stay in Russia for at least another year. On Sunday, in the decisive match of the Russia-Argentina final, Marat Safin beat Jose Acasuso on a tie-break in the fourth set.
Russia has become the first country in the 21st century to win twice the world championship among men's national teams.
On Sunday, the Olympiisky center was all agog. Mikhail Youzhny, Igor Andreyev and other members of the Russian team were cheering Marat Safin. Team captain Shamil Tarpishchev, breaking his television interview, accepted congratulations from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Twenty thousand fans chanted enthusiastically: "Well done".
Our team had started on its road to the final 10 months ago. Could anyone believe that Russia would travel to the end? Yes, they could, and how. Keep in mind how confidently our team made the first step in February in Amsterdam. It defeated the Dutch team in a whitewash victory.
Then in the small town of Pau the Russians upset the French again, winning 4-1, and ceding only in the pairs. On the way to the final our team hiccoughed only once - in a semi-final against the U.S. player. After two days we were leading 2-1. And everyone understood how important it was to win the scoring point without having to play a fifth match.
Tarpishchev assigned that challenge to Dmitry Tursunov, who played perhaps the best match in his career. In a five-hour thriller-match he wrenched the win from a master of aces Andy Roddick. For a couple of hours after the match, Dmitry could not even stand up, his muscles were so contracted. He received congratulations lying on a massage table. Thanks to his fantastic sense of the ball, the team headed straight for the Moscow David Cup final.
Not everyone made it, however. Late in October in St. Petersburg, Mikhail Youzhny landed on the court badly and received an injury. For another week he could not overcome the shock and give the correct diagnosis. As a result, the press carried a dozen versions. From "the rupture of the sacral ligament" to "Achilles' tendon injury". But the trauma was not so critical - a tear in a tendon.
To be honest, the Argentineans had a better chance for victory. Marat Safin not just ceded, he lost totally to David Nalbandian. There is no room for modesty. Safin did not run, he barely walked across the court, attacked very rarely, made mistakes in simple situations, and failed to muster up his trademark serve. Great thanks to Nikolai Davydenko, the leader of our team. If he had not won his match against Juan Ignacio Chela on the first day, the Argentineans would have led 2-0. And then we could have said goodbye to the silver bowl.
On the next day Safin and Tursunov surprised everyone, and above all themselves. They defeated Nalbandian and Calleri in pairs. A small step remaining for victory was to be made by Nikolai Davydenko. On Sunday, he faced David Nalbandian again. But Nikolai seemed to be paralyzed. He moved clumsily around the court, sending balls meters out of limits and could not handle the Argentinean's serves, which were not particularly powerful ... What happened? I think it was the nerves that let Nikolai down: He had never before played in the David Cup final. And here was the crucial game, plus 20,000 shouting fans from every side ...
Marat Safin, on the other hand, who went to the court next, was absolutely calm. And how well he played against Jose Acasuso! Pointedly and carefully, but at the same time powerfully, piercing the Argentinean's defenses with volleys of precise strikes. This season Safin had not often pleased the fans with his play. But this was not entirely his fault: He returned to the court in late February after eight months of no play. At first he was overly careful, afraid of hurting his injured knee. And then smote everyone with his fantastic play against Richard Gasquet in the David Cup quarter-finals. Altogether, in this season in the world's team championships, our team has won 15 matches. Four of them go to Safin's credit.
Our team celebrated their victory for a long time: in the Olympiisky courts, in changing rooms, in the Metropol Hotel restaurant ... Tennis players laughed, smiled and posed for photographs. They poked fun at each other, tried to bite their gold medals, and promised that this victory was just the beginning.
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