Leach and Pugh won't be team in Davis Cup

October 20, 1991|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,Los Angeles Times

The two most-asked questions about the U.S. Davis Cup team are these:

(1) Who's playing?

(2) Who's not?

Always a steamy breeding ground for controversy, the U.S. team might have cooled off a little now that doubles specialists Rick Leach and Jim Pugh seem to have become the answer to question No. 2, perhaps permanently.

Leach and Pugh, unbeaten in Davis Cup matches but not selected for last month's semifinal round against Germany, have no plans to play together again and are looking for new partners for 1992.

"It's their demise," said Randy McWilliams, a fitness expert from Palm Desert and a friend and adviser to Pugh. "It's kind of like a marriage that fell apart. I think they just grew in different ways."

Pugh, who is taking the rest of the year off, needs an extended vacation away from tennis, McWilliams said.

"He needs time off to relax, so he can just go back on the court next year and be eager to play and he won't get burned out again," McWilliams said.

With Pugh idle, Leach teamed with David Wheaton last week in a tournament in Tokyo and reached the quarterfinals. This week in a tournament at Lyon, France, Leach is playing with Kelly Jones.

Winners of 18 tournaments, Leach and Pugh took three Grand Slam doubles titles -- Wimbledon in 1990 and the Australian Open in 1989 and '90 -- and were the No. 1 doubles team in the world in both 1988 and '89.

However, Leach and Pugh began to slide this year, winning only two tournaments. McWilliams said Pugh's attempts at singles play hurt the doubles partnership.

"There were a lot of events where Jim got into the main draw and Rick didn't, and Rick put a lot of pressure on Jim to play a lot of doubles tournaments to make some money," McWilliams said. "Jim needs to learn to take care of himself."

Leach and Pugh reached the French Open final, but they lost in the first round of Wimbledon as the defending champions, and in the second round of the U.S. Open.

It was their upset loss to Czechs Petr Korda and Karel Novacek at Flushing Meadow that cost Leach and Pugh their Davis Cup spot. Despite a 6-0 record in the annual international competition, the U.S. Tennis Association passed over Leach and Pugh, and chose Scott Davis and David Pate to play Germany in the Davis Cup semifinals.

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