France upsets Spain at Davis Cup

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France upsets Spain at Davis Cup

CLERMONT-FERRAND, France - France beat two-time defending champion Spain for the first time since 1923 in the Davis Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.

Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau defeated Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5) in just over three hours to secure an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

“It’s magical,” French captain Guy Forget told France 3 television. “They pulled for each other. I hope it’s just the start of a long story for that squad.”

France will play its first semifinals since 2004 at home in September against either Russia or Argentina. Argentina leads 2-1 in Moscow.

Spain was again without Wimbledon champion and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who pulled out of the competition to rest his sore knees, while France was missing its best player, injured No. 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Llodra and Benneteau, who were playing only their second cup doubles together, though they’ve won two ATP titles, were almost flawless in the first two sets, while Verdasco and Lopez, 6-3 in the cup as a pair, struggled.

Lopez started his first service game with a double fault. He was then hampered by Verdasco’s positioning at the net and netted a weak volley, followed by Llodra hitting a winning pass straight up the middle. Lopez was again broken at 4-1 when Benneteau fired a return winner past Verdasco.

Llodra hit a backhand volley to grab the first set for France. France kept the pressure on Spain in the second set, taking Verdasco’s serve in the opening game as the Spanish lefty sent a forehand into the net.

Two straight double faults from Lopez in the seventh game gave France two break chances and a volley netted by Lopez helped France convert the second for a 5-2 lead.

France went two sets up on a volley from Llodra as a dejected Verdasco banged the handle of his racket against his chest. Things did not look good for Spain in the third set after Lopez dropped serve in the opening game.

The Spaniards finally raised their level in the eighth game. After Lopez hit a return winner to create two break chances, Benneteau netted a backhand volley to drop serve, allowing Spain to rally at 4-4.

In the tiebreaker, Verdasco saved a match point at 6-5 with a forehand winner. A strong pass from Lopez led Benneteau to volley wide and lose the tiebreaker, and Lopez leaped into the air after winning the third set.

But in the final tiebreaker, Verdasco double-faulted at 3-2 to hand France a mini-break. Llodra slammed a winner for a 6-3 lead, and France needed all three match points to finally convert a winning Llodra volley. AP
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