Davis Cup Final: Brewing Tempests in a Tease Pot
Thursday, October 31, 1991
Much of the attention this week at the Paris Open has been diverted from
the tennis at hand to the continuing speculation over who will be playing
whom in the French-American Davis Cup final a month from now in Lyon.
The American captain, Tom Gorman, has not named his team, resulting in expressions of frustration from John McEnroe and Pete Sampras, both of whom are itching to play. And the French captain, Yannick Noah, continues to grapple with the moral implications of designating himself as a contestant - presumably as a doubles partner to Henri Leconte.
It seems safe to assume that Guy Forget, the present pride of France with a world ranking of No. 6, and Andre Agassi, whose 11-4 Davis Cup record proves he can do the job, will be invited to Lyon on the weekend of Nov. 29.
Beyond that, it is anybody's guess whom Gorman and Noah will choose to complete their four-man teams.
The guessing game is taking a toll on prospective participants.
"I'd love to play," said McEnroe, who a decade ago always found time to represent his country when few other Americans were interested. "But I'm losing interest every day. I can't wait until the last second. I've got to make plans for next year. I've got a family, and I'd like to have some time for them. If it is not decided soon, I'm going to make myself unavailable."
Pete Sampras, fresh from a tournament victory in Lyon itself, said bluntly: "I'd like to have been picked by now."
But, he said, he realized that "a lot of things have to be considered, like the fact that I have never played a Davis Cup."
"I'm sure he'll take that into consideration," Sampras continued. "The Davis Cup is certainly an entirely different scene than playing out here. You are playing for your country and your teammates, and you don't want to let anyone down."
Gorman, reached Wednesday by telephone in Rancho Mirage, California, said: "I disagree that I'm taking too long."
He said he empathized with the players, but pointed out that the French, too, had yet to name their team.
"The United States is in a situation where it has so many good players," he said, "that it takes longer than it does in countries that don't have as many choices."
Gorman said he had made it known early on that he would wait until the indoor tournaments were over - there is one more week to go - before naming a team.
"Maybe if we got locked in, something might happen injury-wise," he said. "Or maybe someone might suddenly start to play really well."
Besides Agassi, McEnroe and Sampras, those said to be under consideration include Jim Courier, who for all his accomplishments this year has won only one of four Davis Cup matches, and Brad Gilbert, an enthusiastic Davis Cup veteran who would be expected to handle the fast Supreme Court surface well.
Noah, for his part, is shuffling through a deck with names like Olivier Delaitre, Fabrice Santoro, Cedric Pioline, Arnaud Boetsch, Thierry Champion and Guillaume Raoux. All of these up-and-comers have various assets to recommend them (and Raoux beat Sampras a year ago in the Paris Open).
But which of them, if any, is capable of beating Agassi or Sampras or Courier or McEnroe now - in the charged and emotionally demanding setting of a Davis Cup final?
The French made it through to the final thanks largely to Santoro, 18, who beat Wally Masur in a deciding match last spring, thereby eliminating Australia. Forget and Santoro led the way again in the semifinals last month, when France had the good fortune to encounter a Yugoslav team that lacked the star Gorans, Ivanisevic and Prpic.
But Santoro's effectiveness on a fast court is doubtful, and his performance here Tuesday evening did not help his cause.
Playing against his mentor in one of those unwelcome matches the draw imposes from time to time, Santoro was hammered, 7-5, 6-3.
The spectacular smashes and aggressive net play must have made spectators wonder whether Noah, ranked 187th, might be a credible Davis Cup contestant not only in doubles but also in singles.
But if Noah who at 31 is training hard again after a spell in which he swapped tennis for show business, could take advantage of Santoro's tenseness under pressure, he could not fool Derrick Rostagno on Wednesday. The Californan, ranked 15th and having the best year of his career, won handily, 6-3, 6-3.
With Rick Leach and Jim Pugh having dropped from the doubles beat, Gorman will probably decide between Ken Flach and Robert Segusio on the one hand, and Scott Davis and David Pate on the other.
Flach and Segusio, once college teammates, have been claiming doubles titles with regularity since 1984 - including a victory in the 1985 U.S. Open final against Noah and Leconte. Davis and Pate have had a better year, but they failed to do their job last month in the Davis Cup semifinal against Germany.
McEnroe and Sampras had originally planned to play doubles together here, leading to speculation that they would be auditioning for a Davis Cup ticket in that category.
But Sampras finally begged off, professing a fear of overexertion, and McEnroe later acknowledged that the idea was a nonstarter because Gorman had ruled out his playing Davis Cup doubles - at least with Sampras.
"The only reason I wanted to play doubles here," McEnroe said, "was if I stood some chance to play doubles in the Davis Cup, so that I could get on the Olympic team. I don't stand a chance of playing singles in the Olympics, but I feel I'm capable of winning the Davis Cup doubles match or the Olympic doubles."
McEnroe, 33, said he was not going to "sit around begging" for Gorman to call.
"I'd want him to want me to play, to feel that I could be an important element in helping us win," McEnroe said, recalling that he had had "many great experiences in the Davis Cup."
He added: "I don't want him to say, 'O.K. I'll give you another chance,' like I'm some guy who has never played before."
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