France eases into finals

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France eases into finals


French tennis player Gael Monfils celebrates after teammates Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement beat Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina in their Davis Cup doubles match in Lyon on Saturday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

PARIS - Nine-time champions France eased into the Davis Cup final on Saturday, but Serbia’s decision to throw unfit world No. 2 Novak Djokovic into doubles action backfired against the Czech Republic.

France opened up an unassailable 3-0 lead in their semifinal against Argentina in Lyon when Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement defeated U.S. Open semifinalists Horacio Zeballos and Eduardo Schwank 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

In December’s final, they will tackle either last year’s runners-up Czech Republic or Serbia, who have never reached a Davis Cup final.

he Czechs were 2-1 ahead in Belgrade after Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek saw off Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1.

Djokovic, who was the U.S. Open runner-up to Rafael Nadal on Monday, pulled out of his scheduled singles event on Friday, a reported victim of gastroenteritis.

In his absence, Viktor Troicki was beaten by Stepanek before Janko Tipsarevic leveled the tie with a victory over Berdych. “It was a smart decision for me to skip the singles on Friday because I didn’t feel well all day,” Djokovic, who was warned for smashing his racquet in frustration on Saturday, told

“But today was different and hopefully tomorrow will be even better. We have to keep our heads up.”

Djokovic is tipped to play singles on Sunday, where he would face Wimbledon runner-up Berdych, the man who beat him at the All England Club in the summer. Tipsarevic would then face Stepanek in the final singles.

“It was great to come back after losing the first set. It was down to our team spirit which was greater than theirs today,” Stepanek said.

France had already been 2-0 ahead overnight thanks to singles wins by Llodra over Juan Monaco and Gael Monfils, who beat David Nalbandian. On Saturday, Llodra and Clement wrapped up a victory after 2 hours and 28 minutes on the court.

“It’s extraordinary to have a team like ours,” said French captain Guy Forget, whose team last made the final in 2002.

Although they were without their injured number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Guy Forget’s team, who beat holders Spain in the previous round, went on the attack in all their three

matches, backed by a loud Palais des Sports crowd.

Tito Vasquez, the Argentina captain, was stunned by the defeat.

“I never thought the result would be so bad. We always thought we could win it,” he said.

In the play-offs, which will decide who is featured in the World Group in 2011, the U.S. went 2-1 ahead of Colombia in Bogota after Mardy Fish and John Isner defeated Robert Farah and Carlos Salamanca 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3.

The U.S., 32-time champions, are attempting to avoid a first relegation in 22 years. Captain Patrick McEnroe took a gamble by not naming doubles specialists the Bryan brothers in the team, but he believes he has been vindicated.

“The altitude had a lot to do with it [with the absence of Bryans],” said McEnroe. “I felt that we might need a couple of extra singles players. Fortunately, Mardy gives us choices as a great singles and doubles player.”

Australia took a 2-1 lead over Belgium in Cairns when Lleyton Hewitt and Paul Hanley saw off Olivier Rochus and Ruben Bemelmans 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi used their Grand Slam-winning experience to keep India afloat against Brazil in Chennai, beating Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1.

It was the Indian pair’s 24th successive Davis Cup win, a record for the competition. Kazakhstan reached the World Group for the first time by taking a 3-0 lead over Switzerland in Astana after Andrey Golubev and Yuriy Schukin defeated Yves Allegro and Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Switzerland is playing without Roger Federer.

Sweden took a 2-1 lead over Italy in Lidkoping when Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt fought back from two-sets down to defeat Simone Bolelli and Potito Starace 5-7, 6-7 (0/7), 7-6, (7/4), 6-3, 7-5. Germany also made sure of their place in the World Group with a 3-0 win over South Africa while Romania saw off Ecuador 3-0.

AFP, Reuters

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