Davis Cup 1996 Final: Enqvist vs Pioline

(See also Enqvist vs Boetsch, Davis Cup results)

For the first time since 1985, tennis' greatest team competition has gone down to the wire. The Davis Cup by NEC final between Sweden and France is very much alive and locked at two rubbers all. It is only the second time that has happened since the advent of the World Group in 1981.

Going into the last day of the final, France was in the driver's seat leading 2-1, after splitting the singles on the first day and then winning the doubles.

But Thomas Enqvist played what could only be described as the match of his life to save the tie. For the first time in his career the 22 year old from Stockholm rallied back from two sets to love down and beat Cedric Pioline 3-6, 6-7(8-10), 6-4, 6-4, 9-7, in a match that lasted four hours 25 minutes.

"I'm pretty tired" said Enqvist, whose five set record was four wins and four losses. "It was the longest match of my career, the most important and the most emotional. It is tough to explain why you win or lose, it's the small things and this time it was with me."

The pressure was on the Swede and Pioline started the match very soundly. He broke Enqvist's serve in the second game of the match when Enqvist hit two double faults. Certainly there was a bout of nerves running through the Swede in the early stages of the match, but by the same token the Frenchman was playing some exceptional tennis.

Enqvist said that he was trying the play the same way as he did on the first day when he defeated Arnaud Boetsch, but Pioline plays a very different match, using much more topspin. Enqvist just found it hard to hit winners against his more aggressive opponent.

The first time the Swede managed a gain break point was in the eighth game of the second set, but those were saved. The tiebreaker was tense and set point swayed back and forth before Enqvist netted a forehand to give Pioline a huge advantage.

Enqvist said: "I was no more nervous than in my first match. The crowd was getting into the match and it was exciting, so I don't think I was negative."

The Swede added that he thought he had almost given it away after missing an easy forehand at set point in the second. But he kept on trying and worked his way back to level the match.

Pioline broke in the first game of the fifth set and served for the match at 5-3. The writing was well and truly on the wall again. In despite of cramps, Enqvist gathered himself and broke back. With the Frenchman serving in the 15th game he double faulted to lose serve and Enqvist closed it out in the next game.

"It is always tough to compare wins," said the Swede. "It's one of the nicest feelings to come back from two sets to love...it's always nice to win."

Text from DavisCup by NEC