It was an endearing and genuine smile that Todd Martin wore when he was introduced as a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team two days ago, but it took little more than two hours Friday for France's Cedric Pioline to knock the grin off Martin's face.
Pioline defeated Martin, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4, giving the French the first point in a Davis Cup World Group first-round match and boosting France's chances of an upset in the three-day competition.
Jim Courier then beat Guy Forget, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, to even the score and increase the significance of today's doubles match.
Martin, who lost the decisive match to Sweden's Magnus Larsson in the 1994 Davis Cup semifinals in September, took the loss to Pioline especially hard because he is so fond of Davis Cup competition. He was the only player from either team to smile and wave to the crowd Thursday, when he was introduced at the opening ceremony.
"Davis Cup is one of the things that we all live for in tennis and so, early on, I was a little nervous," Martin said, "and as I started to get my bearings, I actually played worse."
Pioline, ranked No. 50, ran his record against the 13th-ranked Martin to 4-0, but Martin said their history had nothing to do with his play Friday.
"I can't remember ever when a history between another player and myself has influenced me one way or the other," Martin said. "You just have to go out there and play the match today and not (based on what happened) two years ago."
Unfortunately for Martin, the day was a forgettable one. He was plagued by an inability to get to the net and an unreliable second serve. He won only 39% of his second-serve points, compared to 57% for Pioline.
Pioline broke Martin to take a 6-5 lead in the first set when Martin hit a forehand long. Pioline capped the set with an ace.
"Pioline played pretty well at the end of the set, and then I thought Todd got a little too disappointed and really kind of lost it for a while at the beginning of the second set and that really swung the momentum toward Pioline very favorably," U.S. captain Tom Gullikson said. "Todd got his spirit back and got some intensity back in the third set, but it was a little too late."
Pioline won the second set easily and broke Martin twice to take a 4-0 lead in the third. Martin battled back to 5-4 but lost two break point opportunities in the next game--sending one forehand into the net and another wide for deuce. Pioline volleyed a backhand across the court and beyond the reach of a stretching, 6-foot-6 Martin to bring on match point. He won the match when Martin hit a backhand into the net.
Courier, who complained of jet lag before the match, having come here directly from the Australian Open, showed no signs of drowsiness against Forget. He won both break points he faced and, in one stretch that spanned the second and third sets, won 13 consecutive points.
"I was playing like I was still asleep, I think, but I was dreaming," Courier said.
Three matches remain, the doubles today between Richey Reneberg and Jared Palmer, Australian Open champions, and Forget and Olivier Delaitre, and reverse singles on Sunday.
"The doubles is a swing point," Gullikson said. "Once we win the doubles--or hopefully win the doubles--then we have two chances to clinch it. If we lose the doubles, then our backs are against the wall twice."
Davis Cup Notes
Frederick Fetterlein, ranked 125th, upset Sweden's Stefan Edberg as Denmark took a stunning 2-0 lead at Copenhagen. "This is the greatest moment in my career," Fetterlein said after the 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 victory. "I never thought I would be able to beat Edberg." . . . Michael Stich beat Goran Ivanisevic, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, to help give Germany a 2-0 lead over Croatia. Boris Becker later overpowered Sasa Hirszon, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3, in his first Davis Cup match after a 2 1/2-year absence. . . . Switzerland's chances against the Netherlands were jolted when Marc Rosset was sidelined for up to three months with a broken foot, suffered during his match against Jacco Eltingh. His right leg in a cast, Rosset returned to watch the end of teammate Jakob Hlasek's 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Richard Krajicek. Rosset and Hlasek normally team up for doubles. The reserve members of the squad are Lorenzo Manta and Patrick Mohr, ranked only 238th and 302nd, respectively, and Hlasek has never teamed with either in doubles, even in practice.