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US Tennis Players End 12-Year Davis Cup Drought

The United States has ended its 12-year Davis Cup tennis title drought by defeating Russia 4-1 in the final in Portland, Oregon. But as VOA's Steve Schy reports, some fans wondered why talented American teams had failed to bring home the Cup since 1995.

With this week's win, the United States has now captured the Davis Cup title a record 32 times. But with teams comprised of some of the game's top players, Pete Sampras, Andrei Agassi, Jim Courier and Andy Roddick, there are those who believe the United States team was an underachiever.

But International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti says winning the Davis Cup consistently is more difficult than ever, because international competition has gotten a lot tougher.

"The United States won a lot of Davis Cups in general, so 32 this weekend is a big number," he said. "Tennis is more much competitive than it was. Many more countries have competitive players. You have to play outside, you have to play on different surfaces, so it is not so easy any more to win with continuity."

Since 1990, the United States has made it to the final seven times, winning the Cup over Australia in 1990, Switzerland in 1992, and Russia in 1995 and 2007. The losses came against France in 1991, Sweden in 1997 and Spain in 2004.

From 1990 to present, the U.S. Davis Cup team has had four different captains, with Tom Gorman leading the squad until 1993, Tom Gullickson from 1994 to 1999, John McEnroe for an ill-fated 14-month tenure from 1999 to 2000 and current captain, Patrick McEnroe, who took over in December of 2000, just three weeks after his older brother resigned.

Over the years, many of the top American players have sometimes played Davis Cup. But a variety of issues, from injuries to ego clashes and scheduling problems kept the United States from consistently fielding its best possible team.

Captain Patrick McEnroe says he chooses players for their desire to play for the team, and also gave credit to training partners, Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri, John Izner and Donald Young.

"I always try to focus on the guys that are here and that really wanted to be here and that was this group of guys," McEnroe said. "Having Robby and Mardy here and having the young guys come along too. These guys have been 100 percent committed to each other and to the cause, no matter what."

The current members of the team have been together in various configurations for some time. Roddick in his seventh year and the Bryan brothers have been on the squad for five years. McEnroe says the stability has been helpful.

"I think the experience that these guys have over the years was really key, you know towards handling the away matches and also handling the emotion of the home matches really well," he said. "It's been a long road and I could not be happier for these guys because they have been through it all together and we have had a lot of ups and downs, but it feels awesome."

With the 4-1 win the 12-year quest comes to an end, at least for now. But fans here in Portland are already asking, "Can they do it again next year?"