VIENNA, SEPT. 22 -- Rick Leach and Jim Pugh ignored a cold rain and a raucous crowd to defeat an inspired Austrian doubles team today, giving the United States a 2-1 lead in its Davis Cup semifinal. The Americans used superior net play to top Thomas Muster and Alex Antonitsch, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.
Mark Kratzmann and Darren Cahill, playing Davis Cup doubles together for the second time, needed 28 games in the fifth set to beat Argentines Javier Frana and Chistian Miniussi, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 15-13, in Sydney to give Australia a clinching 3-0 lead. The U.S. squad can move into the final against Australia Nov. 30-Dec. 4 if Andre Agassi beats Muster or Michael Chang tops Horst Skoff today.
"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.
The Americans needed seven match points to subdue Muster and Antonitsch. "It was real cold out there, but I was just sweating bullets," Leach said.
He and Pugh, the world's No. 2 team, took advantage of Antonitsch's lack of agility and Muster's unease at the net. Pugh, who did not lose his serve, was overpowering with his volleys.
The teams traded service breaks early, then held serve until the first-set tiebreaker, in which the Americans led, 5-0, then held off an Austrian rally. The Austrians rebounded in the second set, breaking Leach in the second game as Antonitsch slammed several returns for winners.
Leach and Pugh rolled through the third in 28 minutes.
Rain halted play 10 minutes in the eighth game of the final set and, after the Austrians evened the set at 4, again for 1 hour 30 minutes.
After Pugh held for 5-4, the Austrians saved four match points to even the set. Muster's slam saved one match point, followed by two Antonitsch service winners and an ace.
Leach held and the Americans won on the seventh match point as Leach volleyed past the diving Antonitsch.