-- Russia won its first Davis Cup title today by rallying to beat defending champion France, 3-2, with the greatest comeback in a final in 38 years.

Substitute Mikhail Youzhny -- a ball boy the last time Russia played in a Davis Cup final -- won the last match in the best-of-five series. He came back from a two-set deficit to stun Paul-Henri Mathieu, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

"When I was down two sets to love, I told myself: 'I have to play my game, I have to do my best,' " Youzhny said. "I won this match because I'm in top form. And even though I'm young, I already have experience of big matches."

Russia became just the sixth team to win a Davis Cup final after trailing 2-1. The last was Australia against the United States in 1964.

"It was really a tough match," Russia captain Shamil Tarpishchev said. "I've never had such a tough match as the captain of the Russian team."

Youzhny entered with a 1-4 record in Davis Cup play. But he was chosen to replace two-time Grand Slam tournament champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who was tired after playing singles Friday and doubles Saturday -- losing both.

Kafelnikov had said he would retire if Russia won.

That seemed unlikely at the start of the day today, when France held a 2-1 lead and hoped to continue another trend: The team winning the doubles had won the previous 24 Davis Cup finals.

But Marat Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion, tied the final by defeating Sebastien Grosjean, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (11-9), in today's first match. Then the 32nd-ranked Youzhny fought back to top Mathieu in a showdown between 20-year-olds.

"Yevgeny was tired after the doubles," Safin said. "So we decided to put the young player. Why not?"

Youzhny picked up the last service break in the seventh game of the final set to go up 4-3, and he won the match by holding serve at love.

Russia lost Davis Cup finals in 1994 and 1995.

France was seeking its 10th Davis Cup title and first back-to-back championships since 1932. The French won last year's final in Australia.

French captain Guy Forget appeared to hold back tears as he thanked fans and players during the award ceremony.

"I put forward the best French players, but you guys were too strong for us," he said, looking at the Russian players.

He then turned to his own team: "Several times we've spoken of the 'magic recipe,' " he said. "It's the unity between us that gives us strength. I guarantee, if we keep this state of mind, we will win again."

Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin holds the Davis Cup trophy high as Russia's Marat Safin, rear, celebrates with players and staff.