Rick Leach and Jim Pugh ignored a cold rain and a raucous crowd to defeat an inspired Austrian doubles team Saturday, giving the United States a 2-1 lead in its Davis Cup semifinal.
The Americans used their superior net play to overcome Thomas Muster and Alex Antonitsch 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-0, 7-5 in a match halted by rain for 1 hour and 40 minutes in the final set.The U.S. squad can move into the Davis Cup final against Australia Nov. 30-Dec. 4 by winning either of Sunday's singles matches. Andre Agassi plays Muster and Michael Chang faces Horst Skoff.
"We overcame so much. It's just a great feeling," Pugh said. "It's kind of not like we beat two people, it's like we beat 15,000 at the same time."
The Austrians were urged on by a foot-stomping, flag-waving crowd in the Prater soccer stadium, while the Americans had to generate their own enthusiasm to stay warm.
"It was real cold out there, but I was just sweating bullets," Leach said.
The Americans needed seven match points to finally subdue Muster and Antonitsch, who have far less experience at doubles than their opponents.
"Leach and Pugh play doubles 40 weeks a year," said Austrian captain Filip Krajcik, whose own duo rarely plays together outside the Davis Cup. "They are stronger at the net game and they serve more consistently."
In Sydney on Saturday, Mark Kratzmann and Darren Cahill needed 28 games in the fifth set to beat Argentines Javier Frana and Chistian Miniussi Saturday for Austrailia's spot in the Davis Cup finals.
The Australians took a clinching 3-0 lead against Argentina.