The French federation decided to host Australia on clay to neutralise all Australians because clay was the least favourable surface for them all. This strategy didn’t pay off because Philippoussis  – considered as the best server of the late 90s – enjoyed the venue playing indoors, and his serve worked exceptionally well in his both rubbers… Pioline  applied a bit surprising strategy attacking the net constantly on serve, perhaps he felt the toil of the Friday match against Hewitt – three sets, but in terms of time (3 hours 40 minutes) it was like a solid 5-setter, so I guess the Frenchman wanted to avoid longer rallies, but against someone like Philippoussis, who didn’t like them, it was a strange tactics anyway. Pioline saved a set point at *4:5 (30/40) in the 2nd set with a stretch-volley, won the set, and began the 3rd one with two spectacular points. The rest was anticlimactic – he lost five straight games and seemed physically spent. The Australian was fully focused, and his returns & passing-shots were rather above his standards in the last two sets. In the last game of the match, Pioline wasn’t able to return even one of the serves of the Australian sending them all long or into the net. Four years later Philippoussis will win another clincher, equalling achievement of Pat Cash who had won two clinchers in the years 1983 & 86. “It is the best match Mark has played with his head in his life,” Newcombe said. “He didn’t have any highs or lows in the match – just highs.”
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