Australia's long, difficult road to the Davis Cup final ended with toy kangaroos tossed on the court and Mark Philippoussis enjoying a tennis moment like no other.
Philippoussis, who did not play any Davis Cup matches last year because of a dispute with team leaders, beat Cedric Pioline of France, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, today to conclude the 100th anniversary of the showcase event.
"This is the best moment of my life," Philippoussis said. "I concentrated really well. I can honestly say that I heard no noise from the crowd, just the ball hitting the line, the line calls and my heart beating."
Philippoussis, again relying on his big serve, had 15 aces in a victory that gave Australia an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five final. This was Australia's 27th Davis Cup title and its first since 1986.
After the final point, Philippoussis was lifted by his teammates, as hundreds of cheering Aussies in the crowd waved banners and tossed inflatable kangaroos.
"I got injured at Wimbledon this year and who knows if I could have gone on to win there," Philippoussis said. "But I would take this for a Wimbledon win any time."
Pioline, perhaps sensing that at age 30 his last chance of a Davis Cup triumph had gone, was in tears.
In the final reverse singles match, Sebastien Grosjean of France defeated Lleyton Hewitt, 6-4, 6-3, leaving Australia with a 3-2 decision.
Australia began the day with a 2-1 lead after winning Saturday's doubles. Since 1978, every team that has won the doubles has won the trophy.
Australia eliminated Zimbabwe, the United States and Russia to reach its 44th Davis Cup final. The team nearly withdrew before its quarterfinal against the United States when organizers gave the Americans home advantage to celebrate the event's centenary.
The day began with Philippoussis walking onto the court amid a cauldron of noise from the crowd of 10,000. But it was Pioline who began uneasily, double faulting on break point in the first game. The set ended with Pioline double faulting again on Philippoussis's first set point.
Pioline rallied to win the second set, and the French crowd hoped that would be a turning point. But after a long talk from Australian captain John Newcombe, Philippoussis came out roaring in the third set, surging to a 5-0 lead in 24 minutes.
"That was the best match Mark has played with his head in his life," Newcombe said. "He didn't have highs and lows, just highs."