Andre Agassi saved the U.S. Davis Cup team from an embarrassing collapse. His Czechoslovak opponent fell apart instead.
Agassi beat Karel Novacek, 7-6 (7-5), 6-0, 6-0, giving the Americans a shaky 3-2 quarterfinal victory yesterday at the PTC Sonesta Sanibel Harbour Resort in Fort Myers, Fla.
Before Agassi won, the U.S. team was in danger of blowing a 2-0 lead for the first time since 1960. The Czechoslovaks upset John McEnroe and Rick Leach in doubles Saturday, then drew even in yesterday's first singles match when Petr Korda beat Pete Sampras in four sets.
"To go out in a situation where it boils down to you and your country, it's unequaled . . . especially when you spend a day and a half thinking you've got it won," Agassi said. "A Grand Slam final doesn't even come close to that."
Novacek, ranked 12th in the world, said a disputed line call in the tie-breaker was partly to blame for his loss. Regardless, as the Czechoslovak's unforced errors rapidly rose to 64, Agassi felt no sympathy.
Agassi has yet to reach a tournament quarterfinal this year, and an 0-3 record in Grand Slam finals has saddled him with a reputation for losing big matches.
France's brief reign as Davis Cup champion ended yesterday.
After winning the cup for the first time in 59 years by upsetting the United States in December, the French were beaten by Switzerland in the quarterfinals in Nimes, France.
Jakob Hlasek clinched Switzerland's 3-2 victory and boosted the Swiss into the semifinals for the first time, beating Thierry Champion, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5, in yesterday's first singles match.
France's Arnaud Boetsch beat Marc Rosset, 6-4, 6-4, in the final singles.