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'Philippoussis has finally been accepted'
David Evans reports
 real 28k

Sunday, 5 December, 1999, 17:25 GMT
Philippoussis wins Davis Cup for Australia
Philippoussis is held aloft by his ecstatic team-mates

Australia have won their sixth sporting world title of the year after Mark Philippoussis led them to victory in tennis' Davis Cup.

Holding a 2-1 lead going into the final day of tennis' biggest team competition, Philippoussis clinched the cup with a four sets victory over France's Cedric Pioline.

Urged on by the home crowd in Nice, Pioline wept after his 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 defeat at the hands of the 23-year-old Australian.

It is the best match Mark has played with his head in his life
Australian captain John Newcombe
Philippoussis' victory completes a remarkable sporting year for his countrymen and women, who can now boast the world titles in cricket, netball, hockey, rugby union, baseball and tennis.

Philippousis' win gave Australia an unassailable 3-1 lead although France's Sebastien Grosjean and 18-year-old Australian Lleyton Hewitt were still due to play out their final single match.

The stage was set for the victory following Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge's heroic doubles comeback against Olivier Delaitre and Fabrice Santoro on Saturday.

The Woodies came from a set down to clinch an epic contest that lasted nearly four hours.

Pioline nailed only one in three first serves
Philippoussis, who last year refused to play in the competition after disagreements with captain John Newcombe also lost a set in his clash but he never looked like losing to the French No 1.

His booming serves and blistering ground strokes were too much for Pioline, who did not help his cause with a flurry of unforced errors.

He romped to a 6-3 first set win in just 37minutes but then squandered set point in the second to allow Pioline back into the match.

The partisan French crowd glimpsed a revival but Philippoussis powered away with a crushing 6-1 third set win.

France last won the Davis Cup in 1996
While the Frenchman had trouble with his ball toss and was successful with only 38 percent of his first serves, 6ft 4ins Philippoussis served at 67 percent and slammed down 15 aces.

Pioline barely had time to catch his breath before the Australian had sewn up the match 6-2 in the fourth set.

Philippoussis ran to the courtside to embrace his team mates and captain Newcombe as the 1,000 Australian fans in the stadium went wild while Pioline wept in his chair.

"It is the best match Mark has played with his head in his life," Newcombe said. "He didn't have any highs or lows in the match - just highs."

The victory gave Australia their 27th Davis Cup triumph - second only to the United States with 31 - but it was their first since 1986.

The success helped erase the painful memory of the 1993 final when they were beaten by Germany in Duesseldorf.

Newcombe had said before the final that it was Australia's "destiny" to win the Cup.

They achieved their achieved the triumph without star player Pat Rafter, the two-time US Open champion, who is sidelined by a shoulder injury.

But in a typical example of Australian team-play which has led them to such sporting heights on the eve of the millennium, little-known players such as Hewitt and unheralded duo Wayne Arthurs and Sandon Stolle stepped into the breach during the earlier phases.
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See also:
05 Dec 99 |  Tennis
Aussies hold narrow lead
03 Dec 99 |  Tennis
Aussies take Davis Cup lead
04 Dec 99 |  Tennis
'Woodies' give Aussies the edge
02 Dec 99 |  Tennis
Nice end to a tennis century
Links to other Tennis stories are at the foot of the page.