Davis Cup Becomes Sampras's One-Man Triumph

DECEMBER may be the quietest month on the tennis calendar, but this year it produced one of the most dramatic performances - Pete Sampras's one-man tour de force in the Davis Cup final. The world's s No. 1 player won two singles matches and teamed with Todd Martin for a doubles decision to give the United States a 3-2 victory over Russia in Moscow and America's first Cup championship since 1992. Sampras is the first American since John McEnroe to win three matches in a Cup final since 1982.

Playing on clay, which Sampras calls his ''worst surface,'' made his feat that much more heroic. He had to shoulder more of the burden than anticipated because fellow American Andre Agassi, a stronger clay-court player, was injured.

Sampras's first match set the stage: Just after defeating Andrei Chesnokov in a grinding five-setter, Sampras had to be carried off the court with leg cramps.

Judge lightly raps Snider

HALL of Fame outfielder Duke Snider was given a lenient sentence last Friday in New York for his tax indiscretions. Snider had already suffered enough indignity, the judge concluded, by pleading guilty to tax evasion in a Brooklyn federal court.

The shameful admission came in the very community where the former Dodger centerfielder, who now lives in California, once achieved lasting baseball fame. The Internal Revenue Service used him and fellow Hall of Famer Willie McCovey of the Giants as the poster boys in its crackdown on the autograph market.

Snider and McCovey acknowledged receiving more than $100,000 each in unreported income from signing autographs at card shows and celebrity appearances. Half-year jail terms and $250,000 fines were possible punishment. No date has been set for McCovey's sentencing.

Snider, who has reportedly paid nearly $30,000 in back taxes but still owes some $27,000 in interest and penalties, starred in New York when Willie Mays played for the Giants and Mickey Mantle for the Yankees.

According to a story in The New York Daily News, other prominent former ballplayers may soon be indicted for similar autograph-for-profit activities.

Touching other bases

* Pop quiz: At an Olympic meeting today, which sport is expected to become an official medal event at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan: tobogganing, snowboarding, or women's ski jumping? (Answer at end.)

* By inviting the National Football League's Cleveland Browns to play in Baltimore next year, Baltimore has, in effect, evicted this year's championship Baltimore Stallions, the first US club to win the Canadian Football championship. The Stallions were created to fill the void left by the Colts, who moved to Indianapolis in 1984. Now, with the Washington Redskins talking about moving to Maryland, the state may wind up with two NFL teams.

* Quiz answer: Snowboarding.

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