Maiden title for Chile

The victorious Chilean team (from left): Horacio de la Pena (captain), Nicolas Massu, Fernando Gonzalez and Marcelo Rios. — Pic. AFP-The victorious Chilean team (from left): Horacio de la Pena (captain), Nicolas Massu, Fernando Gonzalez and Marcelo Rios. — Pic. AFP

CHILE clinched its first World Team Cup title after Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu beat Jiri Novak and Radek Stepanek in the deciding doubles for a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic.

CHILE clinched its first World Team Cup title after Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu beat Jiri Novak and Radek Stepanek in the deciding doubles for a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic. The tournament was held between May 18 and 24 at Dusseldorf, Germany.

Gonzalez gave Chile a 1-0 lead with a 7-6, 7-6 win over Novak before Stepanek defeated Marcelo Rios 6-3, 7-6 to level the tie. The Chilean pair then overpowered Novak and Stepanek 6-4, 6-2 to win the trophy in Chile's fourth appearance in the event.

Having dropped only one rubber in its three group matches, Chile made a perfect start. Gonzalez looked in serious danger of losing his first set of the week when Novak raced to a 4-0 lead in just nine minutes, but a break of serve in the fifth game settled his nerves.

Another break in the seventh put him back on terms and after holding on to force a tiebreak, which he took 7-4, rain forced the players off court for an hour during the second set. When they returned, Novak forged ahead again but when he served for the set at 5-4, Gonzalez showed great resistance and resolve to break back.

Novak saved two match points at 5-6 to force a second tiebreak but Gonzalez clinched victory on his third match point. After Chile's win over defending champion Argentina, Rios had warned that he could struggle against Stepanek, and so it proved as the Czech's guile gave him the first set in 30 minutes.

Rios, who impressed in his victory over Gaston Gaudio (Argentina), a day earlier, broke Stepanek to lead 3-1 in the second set only to hand the break back to the Czech in the very next game. Games then stayed on serve until the 11th when, after saving two break points with some brave play, Rios netted a forehand to give Stepanek the chance to serve out for victory.

However, Rios took advantage of his third break point to level at 6-6 and force a tiebreak in which Stepanek raced to a 5-0 lead and held on to win it 7-5 and clinch a 6-3, 7-6 victory.

Both doubles teams had won their three rubbers going into the deciding match, but Gonzalez and Massu were inspired as they raced to a 5-2 lead in the opening set.

The Czech got one of the breaks back but the Chileans held their nerve to clinch it 6-4 and they continued their aggressive tennis to race to a 5-1 lead in the second set. Novak and Stepanek delayed the inevitable by holding serve for 5-2 but after wasting their first two match points, Gonzalez and Massu clinched victory on their third to take the title.

Chile registered an all-win record in the round-robin league (Group `A'), putting it across Sweden 3-0, edging past Germany 2-1, overcoming Argentina 3-0 before quelling a spirited challenge from Czech Repubic 2-1 in the summit clash. Czech Republic too did not lose in the league stages. It beat four-time winner USA 3-0, shut out Spain 2-1, and beat Australia 2-1 in the round-robin tournament, where the top eight countries took part.

USA, which is the only team (besides Germany) to take part in all such events since 1978, confirmed its participation immediately after the withdrawal of Russia due to an injury to Safin (Russia could not find a substitute for Safin). USA lost to Czech 0-3 and Australia 0-3, but beat Spain 2-1.

The results:

Final: Chile bt Czech Republic 2-1 (Fernando Gonzalez bt Jiri Novak 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5); Marcelo Rios lost to Radek Stepanek 3-6, 6-7 (5-7); Gonzalez & Nicolas Massu bt Novak & Stepanek 6-4, 6-2).

Round-robin league:

Chile bt Sweden 3-0 (Nicolas Massu bt Thomas Enqvist 6-2 6-3; Fernando Gonzalez bt Magnus Norman 6-2, 6-3; Massu & Gonzalez bt Bjorkman & Norman 6-4, 6-2). Chile bt Germany 2-1 (Fernando Gonzalez bt Lars Burgsmuller 4-6, 6-7 (6-7); Marcelo Rios lost to Tomas Behrend 6-3, 5-7, 6-7; Gonzalez & Massu bt Schuttler & Kohlmann 1-6, 6-2, 6-0). Chile bt Argentina 3-0 (Fernando Gonzalez bt David Nalbandian 6-4, 7-5; Marcelo Rios bt Gaston Gaudio 6-3, 6-3; Gonzalez & Massu bt Arnold & Nalbandian 3-6 (retd.). Czech Republic bt USA 2-1 (Jiri Novak lost to James Blake 5-7, 6-4, 3-6); Radek Stepanek bt Todd Martin 6-2, 7-5); Novak & Stepanek bt Blake & Fish 6-3, 4-6, 6-1). Czech Republic bt Spain 2-1 (Radek Stephanek lost to Alex Corretja 6-4, 6:4; Jiri Novak bt Carlos Moya 4-6, 7-6, (7-5), 6-2); Stepanek & Novak bt Moya & Corretja 6-3, 6-4). Czech Republic bt Australia 2-1 (Jiri Novak lost to Lleyton Hewitt 3-6, 2-6; Radek Stepanek bt Wayne Arthurs 7-6 (7-1), 6-3; Novak & Stepanek bt Arthurs & Hewitt 6-4, 6-4). Argentina bt Germany 3-0 (David Nalbandian bt Rainer Schuttler 6-4, 7-5; Gaston Gaudio bt Tomas Behrend 6-2, 6-4; Arnold & Nalbandian bt Burgsmuller & Kohlmann 6-2, 0-6, 6-2). Argentina bt Sweden 3-0 (David Nalbandian bt Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 6-2; Gaston Gaudio bt Thomas Enqvist 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7-4); Arnold & Nalbandian bt Bjorkman & Enqvist 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2). Germany bt Sweden 3-0 (Rainer Schuttler bt Magnus Norman 6-1, 6-3, 6-4); Lars Burgsmuller bt Thomas Enqvist 5-7, 6-4, 6-4; Behrend & Kohlmann bt Enqvist & Norman 6-7 (5-7)). Spain bt Australia 2-1 (Carlos Moya lost to Lleyton Hewitt 2-6, 6-3, 3-6); Alex Corretja bt Wayne Arthurs 3-6, 7-5, 7-5); Corretja & Vincente bt Philippoussis & Reid 6-1, 6-1). Australia bt USA 3-0 (Lleyton Hewitt bt James Blake 6-3, 6-3; Wayne Arthurs bt Todd Martin 7-6(7-4), 7-5; Arthurs & Reid bt Fish & Oliver 6-4, 6-2). USA bt Spain 2-1 (James Blake lost to Carlos Moya 6-7 (2-7), 7-5; Todd Martin bt Alex Corretja 6-3, 6-4; Corretja & Vicente bt Blake & Fish 6-2, 7-6 (9-7).