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Johnny on The Spot
Sally Jenkins
December 14, 1992
Besieged by marital woes and paparazzi, John McEnroe rescued the U.S. in the Davis Cup final
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December 14, 1992

Johnny On The Spot

Besieged by marital woes and paparazzi, John McEnroe rescued the U.S. in the Davis Cup final

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When Rosset and Hlasek seized a two-sets-to-none lead over McEnroe and Sampras on Saturday, the American team was aghast. That's when McEnroe's aggression took over. He barked to officials about the Swiss cowbells. He snarled at Sampras and swore at Sturdza. Finally, in the third set, his spark ignited the team. Sampras created set point with a forehand return that skimmed the net and landed at Rosset's feet. Then McEnroe smoked a forehand winner that also deposited itself somewhere near Rosset's shoelaces. As the Americans left the court for the traditional 10-minute intermission, McEnroe tore off his shirt and flung it into the roaring crowd.

In the locker room no one said a word except McEnroe, who delivered a diatribe against the Swiss. By the time the break was over, the rest of the Americans were as surly as Mac. Agassi pounded the courtside barricades and screamed at a hostile spectator, "Are you Swiss? Then kiss my——."

An energized Sampras, who was now glowering, unfurled elegant winners and pumped his fists as he never had before, even in winning the 1990 U.S. Open. Later Sampras called his histrionics a personal breakthrough. "I don't think people have seen that from me before," he said. "I think I learned how to use it."

It was left to the still shaken Courier to close out the tie against Hlasek on Sunday. Courier made his own breakthrough. Agassi was in the locker room waiting to play the rubber match against Rosset, when Courier, tied at one set apiece with Hlasek, began struggling in the third. Agassi charged to courtside, where he screamed at Courier to get rid of Hlasek once and for all. Courier stared at Agassi and laughed. He then obliged.

Afterward Sampras grabbed an American flag from the stands, and the players took turns trotting around the court with it. Even then, McEnroe didn't smile as much as grimace. The Swiss had complained about the Americans' poor sportsmanship, but what is Davis Cup if not being cursed at in a foreign language? McEnroe understands this, and he taught his teammates well.

"You root for our guys and against them," said Agassi. "That's what Davis Cup is all about."

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