MOSCOW -- Admitting he was downright scared, Marat Safin
composed himself and won the Davis Cup title for Russia.
The two-time Grand Slam champion had 16 aces in beating Jose
Acasuso 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Sunday in the fifth and deciding
match, giving Russia a 3-2 decision over Argentina for its second
Davis Cup crown.
"There were some very difficult moments today," Safin said.
"It was tough to control the match. Everything worked out."
Safin lost his opening singles match Friday, blaming the indoor
carpet at Olympic Stadium. But neither the surface nor lingering
knee injuries stopped him this time.
"This is probably the most important win in the last two
years," Safin said.
David Nalbandian, who beat Safin on Friday, won the opening
reverse singles match Sunday to make it 2-2. The eighth-ranked
Argentine downed Nikolay Davydenko 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to put Safin
on the spot.
"I was under pressure and I was pretty scared," Safin said.
"I didn't want to let this cup go away."
This was the first time Russia won the Davis Cup at home. Sweden
topped the host Russians in the 1994 final, and the United States
beat them a year later. Russia won its only previous title four
years ago in France. Argentina lost in its only previous final, to
the United States in 1981.
Davydenko, ranked No. 3, missed his chance to win the
best-of-five series earlier in the day. He quickly dropped the
first two sets to Nalbandian, won the third and threatened in the
"I wasn't nervous in the locker room, but when I got out onto
the court it was a totally different story -- I froze up,"
Davydenko said. "When you tighten up, your muscles lose feeling
and you wonder how to play tennis."
Safin had drawn Juan Ignacio Chela in the final match, but
Argentina captain Alberto Mancini replaced him with Acasuso, who
had not yet played in the final and was unbeaten in his four
previous Davis Cup matches this year.
The Russian easily won the first set, breaking in the second
game before coasting on his serve. In the second set, Acasuso saved
two break points in the fifth game and then broke Safin in the next
to go up 4-2 before holding to even the match.
Acasuso made things interesting in the third game. He broke
Safin with a sharp backhand to pull within 4-3, but netted three
forehands in the next game. Safin held on to take the set.
Both played defensively in the fourth set and traded service
wins to force a tiebreaker. Trailing 6-4, Acasuso saved one match
point on Safin's serve, but then netted a forehand from the
baseline after a short rally.
"I was sure Acasuso would play, and I was sure Marat would beat
him. Marat is a fighter -- he has experience and knows well what to
do and when to do it to reach his goal," Russia captain Shamil
Tarpishchev said. "That's what Acasuso lacks."
Mancini stood by his choice.
"Jose was really fresh ... and I thought his game was better to
face Safin," Mancini said.
Davydenko, who got married last weekend, beat Chela in Friday's
opening match before Nalbandian beat Safin. On Saturday, Russia
took a 2-1 lead when Safin and Dmitry Tursunov topped Nalbandian
and Agustin Calleri in doubles.