Russia wins Davis Cup. Marat Safin proved yet again that he is as much big-occasion-player as playboy when he edged out Argentina’s Jose Acasuso, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) in the fifth and deciding rubber of the Davis Cup final in Moscow overnight. The Cup victory was Russia’s second in recent years, Safin also guiding his country to victory in 2002. This time, the ever-refreshing Russian star admitted he was terrified going into the decider. “I was under pressure and I was pretty scared. I didn’t want to let this cup go away,” he told reporters. Even then, he was doing better than teammate and world No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko, who admitted: “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. When you tighten up, your muscles lose feeling and you wonder how to play tennis.” He had eight double-faults and 76 unforced errors in losing to Argentina’s Davis Nalbandian, 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, to take the Cup into the fifth rubber before Safin guided Russia home. Argentina had been trying to win the Cup for the first time, after beating Australia 5-0 in a spiteful semi-final (remember Lleyton Hewitt’s personal bodyguards?).

Thorpe‘s gone, Phelps isn’t. As we concentrate on the results of the Australian swimming titles, including Grant Hackett’s scratchy return to the water, it’s worth glancing across the Pacific. Michael Phelps has won six gold medals at the US Open swimming championships, including the 100 metre freestyle and 200 metre butterfly yesterday. This was on top of gold in the 200 individual medley and 200 freestyle, and two relay golds. “This is definitely going to get me excited to keep everything going,” Phelps said, admitting he was already looking towards the world titles in Melbourne in March-April next year.

Ben Cousins does it again. Sigh. Another day, another headline about the former Eagles captain getting well-lubricated and then into trouble – “absolutely legless”, to use the words of a police source. Our suggestion to West Coast is to fire Cousins, then hire a player who looks a lot like him under the name John Citizen-Smith … a mysterious player who only shows up for training and games and has no public life outside the club, and therefore doesn’t disgrace the Eagles on a regular basis. Then former Eagle Ben Cousins can do and drink what he likes, as he seems to anyway. It all makes you yearn already for the start of the 2007 season so we can get worked up over on-field dramas, such as the “towelgate” saga currently rocking Watford and Sheffield United in the Premier League.

Peter Fray

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