Australia, France win in Davis Cup

Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2001

U.S. Open champion Lleyton Hewitt beat Thomas Johansson 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 Sunday as Australia clinched its semifinal against Sweden 4-1 to advance to a third consecutive Davis Cup final.

In the final, Australia will play host to France, which eliminated the Netherlands in Rotterdam. The final will be held from Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

After winning a first-set tiebreaker and dropping the second set, Hewitt won 10 of the last 11 games to take the third set in 32 minutes and wrap up the fourth in 24 minutes. He served an ace to set up three match points and closed with an ace down the line.

''I've been moving unbelievable at this stage of the year ... the hard work is starting to pay off and it feels good,'' said Hewitt.

After the match, Australian coach Wally Masur and teammates hoisted Hewitt onto their shoulders and carried him around the court to the cheers of the 10,400 fans at Sydney's International Tennis Center.

Patrick Rafter beat Jonas Bjorkman 6-3, 6-2 in the inconsequential last singles match later Sunday to complete the win for Australia.

France advanced to the final for the second time in three years Saturday when the doubles team of Cedric Pioline and Fabrice Santoro completed a sweep of the Netherlands.

''It would be an honor to play in Australia, and I know with the guys we have we could also put up a great fight there,'' French captain Guy Forget said before he knew Australia would be the next opponent.

The Australians beat France in the 1999 decider at Nice to win a 27th Davis Cup title but lost last year's final to Spain at Barcelona.

Australia was last the host of a Davis Cup final in 1986, when current captain John Fitzgerald helped the Aussies to a 3-2 win against Sweden.

Pioline and Santoro defeated doubles specialists Paul Haarhuis and Sjeng Schalken 7-5, 6-1, 7-5. The French, eight-time Davis Cup champions, won the best-of-five series 3-0.

The French pair only play doubles together only during the Davis Cup. But they silenced the home fans by outplaying a vastly experienced Dutch doubles team that has won three tournaments and were semifinalists at the U.S. Open.

Haarhuis was broken four times and Schalken was coming off a five-set loss to Nicolas Escude on Friday. Pioline and Santoro allowed only one break point and saved it.

The result means Sunday's reverse singles will have no bearing on the series. The final singles match in the Australia-Sweden tie also had no bearing.

In matches to decide which nations join the World Group next year, Britain swept Ecuador 3-0 and Argentina beat Belarus 3-0.

Morocco was up 2-1 against Belgium in Liege, Belgium; the Czech Republic led Romania 2-1 at Prostejov, Czech Republic; Croatia led Italy 2-1 in Rome; and Slovakia led Chile 2-1 at Presov, Slovakia.

The eighth match between the United States and India at Winston-Salem, N.C., was postponed until Oct. 12-14 because of the recent terrorist attacks.

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