Friday 10 to 1: famous Aussie Davis Cup away victories
With Australia facing the tough task of beating Poland on foreign soil this weekend, we look back at our most famous and impressive Davis Cup wins away from home.
With the Australian Davis Cup team facing a challenging task to beat Poland on foreign soil in a bid to return to the World Group for the first time since 2007, we take a look at our nation’s most famous and impressive Davis Cup wins away from home.
It was a solid if not entirely star-studded team of Mark Edmondson, John Alexander, Peter McNamara and Phil Dent who travelled to Mexico City to take on a strong Mexican outfit on red clay, led by Jorge Lozano (twice a French Open mixed doubles champion) and Raul Ramirez (a former world No.4). Things looked dire for the visitors when they found themselves down 2-1 after the doubles rubber, but a stunning comeback on the third day saw McNamara and Edmondson win their live singles rubbers in straight sets to clinch victory.
A year earlier, Australia had suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of Zimbabweans Byron and Wayne Black, who combined to defeat the powerful hosts in a seemingly unwinnable tie on grass in Mildura. Having avoided relegation to the zonal group, Australia by chance found itself up against Zimbabwe again, this time in the Black’s home town of Harare. The visitors made sure there was no repeat of what had happened 12 months prior; after Mark Philippousis dropped his opening rubber to Byron, Pat Rafter won both his opening and reverse singles matches against Wayne and Byron, with Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge clinching the doubles rubber in between.
Played in challenging conditions, Australia clinched its current berth in the 2013 World Group Play-offs with victory over Uzbekistan in the remote city of Namangan. The indoor clay court at Sports Complex Pahlavon had become something of a fortress for the hosts, who had won their past six ties there dating back to 2007. But despite being led by the dangerous top-50 player Denis Istomin, Uzbekistan couldn’t quell the Aussie charge. Bernard Tomic gave Australia an early lead, and after Lleyton Hewitt and Matt Ebden combined for a five-set doubles win, Tomic beat Istomin on the third day to cement victory.
Held on the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon’s No.1 court, Australia wrapped up a clinical victory by winning each of the first three live rubbers in straight sets. With Pat Cash and Paul McNamee leading the way in singles, Cash combined with John Fitzgerald in doubles to clinch an unassailable 3-0 lead. Such dominance would prove telling; Australia went on to win the David Cup final later that year.
Sweden were once a Davis Cup powerhouse, and despite not quite scaling the same heights as when they won an incredible six times through the 1980s and 90s, they still fielded an impressive team in 2003 featuring Jonas Bjorkman, Thomas Enqvist, Magnus Norman (all of whom reached the top five) and Joachim Johansson, once ranked No.9. Yet they didn’t trouble the Australians; Philippoussis and Hewitt won their opening singles matches, and Woodbridge combined with Wayne Arthurs to seal victory in doubles. Arthurs and Philippoussis kept their focus to win the dead reverse singles rubbers and complete a 5-0 whitewash.
This victory came in the Challenge Round era, which saw the reigning Davis Cup champion nation immediately take its place in the final to face that year’s “challenger”, who had arrived at the final by winning several earlier ties. From 1946 to 1949, Australia had won its way through to the final only to fall to the United States. But finally bucking the trend in 1950, Australia went from challenger to champion with a rout of the US on grass at Forest Hills, former home of the US Open. Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor got the visitors off to a flyer with wins in the singles, before Sedgman and John Bromwich clinched the Davis Cup after coming back from two-sets-to-one down in the doubles. Australia also beat the United States in the 1951-53 Davis Cup finals before falling in 1954.
In another battle between the two biggest Davis Cup rivals, Australia again stamped its authority in a final with an overwhelming victory on quick indoor carpet in Cleveland against a team lead by 1972 Wimbledon champion and former world No.1 Stan Smith. Star duo John Newcombe and Rod Laver combined for the Aussies, both winning their opening singles rubbers in five sets before crushing Smith and Erik Van Dillen in straight sets in doubles to seal victory.
Australia had many memorable wins on foreign soil in 1999, and this one was up there with the best. Hewitt, just 18 years of age, upset the eighth-ranked Todd Martin in the opening rubber before Rafter gave the visitors a 2-0 lead with victory over Jim Courier. The doubles proved controversial, with Pete Sampras – a strange choice to sit out the singles given his No.3 ranking – partnering Alex O’Brien and beating Woodforde and Sandon Stolle. Yet that was as close as the US got; Rafter returned the next day to cap victory with a five set victory over Martin, recovering from two-sets-to-love down, before Hewitt won his dead reverse singles rubber.
This tie was all about the King of Clay, Gustavo Kuerten, enjoying the chance to play on clay in front of his adoring home-town fans in Florianopolis, Brazil, and ideally deliver them a famous triumph. Except somebody forgot to tell Hewitt, who spoiled the script with an upset victory over the three-time French Open champion on his least favourite surface to seal a 3-1 victory for Australia.
Down a set in the doubles rubber, Australia found themselves in trouble. The singles rubbers on Day 1 had already been split, with Philippoussis beating Sebastien Grosjean before a young Hewitt fell to the experienced Cedric Pioline. Played before an atmospheric crowd on indoor clay in Nice – hardly suiting the visiting team – the French were firing up their doubles team of Fabrice Santoro and Olivier Delaitre, who were responding. But Woodbridge and Woodforde somehow found calm amid the din, chipping away at the French team’s lead and eventually rebounding to win in four. When Philippoussis wrested control of the reverse singles on the third day and powered past Cedric Pioline, Australia has claimed its first Davis Cup in 13 years, in the most unlikely of circumstances.