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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 10:24 GMT
The route to the final
Marat Safin
Marat Safin was Russia's hero in the semi-finals
Russia's Davis Cup team face an unfamiliar task when they take on France in the Davis Cup final.

It will be their first away tie of this year's competition and a sell-out crowd at the Paris-Bercy stadium will no doubt ensure the Russians are soon longing for home.

The clay surface, however, will be a welcome sight for the visitors, who have played all three of their ties on the red stuff.

  Russia
R1 Switzerland 3-2
QF Sweden 4-1
SF Argentina 3-2
Russia began their campaign against Switzerland at Moscow's Olympic Stadium.

Despite the best efforts of Swiss stand-out Roger Federer, who thrashed both Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Russia escaped with a 3-2 victory.

Next up were Sweden, who comfortably beat Great Britain in their opening tie, at the Sports Palace in Moscow.

Safin gave his side the perfect start, beating Thomas Johansson in straight sets, before Kafelnikov repeated the trick against Thomas Enqvist.

The doubles was a tighter affair but the Russian pair prevailed in five sets to seal victory inside two days and a semi-final against the dangerous Argentines.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov
An exhausted Kafelnikov held off Chela

When Safin eased to a four-set win over Juan Ignacio Chela to put his side in the lead, there was no indication of the fireworks to come.

First Kafelnikov came from behind to sneak a 3-6 7-5 6-3 2-6 8-6 victory over Gaston Gaudio and then came an epic doubles encounter on the middle Saturday.

At 17-16 in the final set, Safin served for the match and a place in the final but the first-time pairing of Lucas Arnold and David Nalbandian fought off two match points before wrapping up the match 4-6 4-6 7-5 6-3 19-17.

At six hours and 20 minutes, the match was the longest in Davis Cup history since the introduction of the tiebreak.

  France
R1 Holland 3-2
QF Czech Republic 3-2
SF USA 3-2

But Safin somehow managed to regroup and ended Argentina's challenge in the first rubber of the final day, beating Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian to clinch Russia's place in the final.

Their opponents, who like Russia have played every tie on home soil, have also been tested fully on their way to the Paris finale.

France began their defence of the title at home to Holland, and after Sebastien Grosjean and Arnaud Clement had given them a 2-0 lead, the result was virtually a formality.

The Czech Republic provided sterner opposition in the last eight and the tie went down to the wire after Jiri Novak inflicted a shock defeat on Grosjean to make it 2-2.

Sebastien Grosjean
Grosjean downed Roddick to put France in the final

But Fabrice Santoro stepped in for the out-of-form Nicolas Escude and, despite allowing Bohdan Ulihrach to recover from two sets down, led France into the semi-finals.

Faced with a home tie against the United States, France almost won the match before it began by selecting clay.

The Americans launched a brief resistance at 0-2 down by winning the doubles to take the match into a third day.

But when Andy Roddick fell to Grosjean in four sets, France clinched a place in the Davis Cup final for the 12th time in their history.


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