SANTANDER, Spain (AP) -- John McEnroe fled in the rain, along with his soaked and sunken U.S. Davis Cup team, taken down brutally by the Spanish armada in the semifinals.
For the first time in 101 years of Davis Cup play, the United States suffered a 5-0 thrashing without the title on the line.
"I'm totally spent, I'm deflated," McEnroe said Sunday after fleeing the stadium following the last two meaningless matches. He spoke hours later by phone from his car on the way to the airport in Bilbao.
"It was tough for me, and it was tough for everybody. I feel like I'm going to throw up. I'm not sure if it's emotional or what."
With the victory already clinched, Sunday's matches served only to pad Spain's margin and underscore the weakness of the American team. Juan Balcells, Spain's weakest player, beat Jan-Michael Gambill 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 amid thunder, lightning and driving rain after Juan Carlos Ferrero downed Vince Spadea 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Only twice before in the open era -- in finals against Australia in 1973 and Sweden in 1997 -- did the United States lose so badly. Five other 5-0 losses for the Americans also came in finals.
For all practical purposes, the Americans were dead on arrival, their demise virtually guaranteed the moment Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi begged off by claiming injuries.
"Personally, I think that he was angry about Sampras and Agassi," Spanish captain Javier Duarte said of McEnroe. "It's a difficult situation, but I think he is feeling awful for that. Perhaps more than the defeat."
The United States has won Davis Cup 31 times, more than any other country, since Dwight Davis and his Harvard chums claimed the first one in 1900. But the future looks mighty bleak for the Americans in the next few years, regardless of whether McEnroe stays as captain.
Sampras will be 30 next year and Agassi and Todd Martin will be 31. The likelihood of them carrying the Davis Cup team once more, or even wanting to, is slim. Nor are there any Americans on the horizon to take their place among the best in the world. Gambill is good, but at 23 he still has to prove he's even a top-10 player. Andy Roddick, coming out of the juniors, might develop into a great player, but that could be a long way off.
McEnroe signed a three-year deal last year with every intention of restoring the lost glory of Davis Cup in the United States. In the 1920s, '30s and '40s, Davis Cup was among the biggest events on the American sports calendar, rivaling any of the majors. McEnroe brought back some of its popularity in the late 1970s and early '80s, when he helped win four championships in five years, and he thought his name and status and love of the cup would bring back the top players.
"Either it's bad luck or I haven't made a difference," McEnroe said at the start of this series. "I'm not sure what it is at this point. Obviously one of the reasons I was hired was so that I would make a difference in getting the players to play. Well, I clearly haven't succeeded. I'd like to think it's bad luck."
Sampras was willing to play through pain to win Wimbledon. But even with a week to rest the tendinitis above his left ankle, he was unwilling to come to Spain. Agassi claimed a fender bender left him with back spasms too severe to play. Agassi produced a doctor's note, but don't expect him to miss any tournaments on the way to the U.S. Open.
Sampras and Agassi had said all year that they were committed to Davis Cup this time around, and when they backed out they let down not just McEnroe and their teammates, but American tennis fans who still believe this is important.
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