France fight back in doubles to take 2-1 lead over Serbia

Sunday, December 5, 2010

BELGRADE - France moved to within sight of a 10th Davis Cup title with a doubles comeback win from two sets down to earn a 2-1 lead in the final and leaving hosts Serbia fighting for life after a five-set defeat.

Experienced campaigners Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra showed their veteran poise under pressure as they engineered a heroic comeback to win 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 against Serbs Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki.

The French fightback in front of a stadium mainly packed with 15,000 boisterous Serbian faithful, required just over four and a half hours.

“It was a typical Davis Cup match,” French team captain Guy Forget said. “I knew they could come back, though it was clearly going to be very, very hard.”

Serbia is trying to become only the second unseeded nation after Croatia in 2005 to win the trophy in the worldwide team competition.

But world number three Novak Djokovic is in a must-win Sunday against Gael Monfils and Janko Tipsarevic is due to play the final rubber against Gilles Simon.

Forget, Clement and Llodra all stressed that the experience the tandem has in playing together was crucial.

“I was a little bit nervous and tight at the beginning,” Llodra said. “Arnaud helped me - that’s why it’s good to play with a good friend, who can find the right words to pick you up.”

Zimonjic said that he and Troicki were in control for “a set and a half,” and the first French break late in the second set.

“We still managed to win the tie-break and then put Arnaud under pressure every time he served,” Zimonjic said. “We lost because we did not use our opportunities … two double break points.”

But Zimonjic, Troicki and team captain Bogdan Obradovic sharply criticised the chair referee Enric Molina and the line judges.

Troicki said “it was worse than if we had played in Paris.”

Obradovic said that he intended to talk to International Tennis Federation officials about the refereeing, but that the focus is on the remaining matches and a comeback attempt.

The heart-breaking defeat put the hosts in the hot-seat for Sunday’s deciding pair of reverse singles rubbers.

“We have enough time to recover,” said Obradovic.

Forget said that France “came here to win the tie and is on the plan so far,” but he is taking nothing for granted.

“We have one point to win from two matches, but you guys (Serbs) were 2-1 down against the Czechs in the semi-final and won it in the end,” he said.

Simon is listed to play the final rubber, but Forget left the door open of replacing him with Llodra, saying he would reach a decision overnight and tell his players only before the final matches begin.

“I want them to remain nervous and focused,” Forget said.

Filed under: Tennis

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