France in driver’s seat at Davis Cup after controversial win

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France in driver’s seat at Davis Cup after controversial win

BELGRADE, Serbia - France edged towards a 10th Davis Cup title when Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra staged a remarkable comeback to beat Serbia’s Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki in a stormy five-set cliffhanger on Saturday.

Emotions boiled over inside the jam-packed venue as the durable French duo clawed back from a two-set deficit to win 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, and sparked wild celebrations among their 1,000-strong army of blue-clad fans in a sell-out crowd. The victory put France ahead 2-1 with Sunday’s reverse singles matches to come at Belgrade Arena.

Spanish umpire Enric Molina struggled to keep order after one flashpoint, and Serbia’s spectating singles player Janko Tipsarevic grabbed a microphone and pleaded with home fans to behave, although French followers were to blame for a bizarre incident that sparked angry scenes in the second set. To add further fuel to the fire, Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic later complained that the line judges, all of whom were Serbian, had favored the French team.

“They were like a dark force out there and their lack of patriotism was astonishing,” Obradovic told reporters after an incident-packed match. “If they feel anything for their country, they should wait for a customary second at close calls.”

On a day of raw sporting drama, the experienced French duo seized their chances to clinch an unlikely victory after more than four hours when Llodra struck a winning volley. As the players embraced, they were saluted by a deafening rendition of La Marseillaise by the vastly outnumbered French fans.

France is now in the driving seat and Gael Monfils can wreck Serbia’s dream of winning the trophy for the first time if he beats home favorite Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s first reverse singles.

“It was a typical Davis Cup match with that unbelievable atmosphere,” France captain Guy Forget told reporters.

Monfils and Djokovic won their singles matches on Friday meaning the stakes were raised considerably for a doubles rubber that unfolded into a Davis Cup epic. Zimonjic, playing in his 37th tie, and Troicki appeared to be close to victory in the heart of the fourth set when they had two break points for a 5-3 lead on the Clement serve.

Those chances went begging, however, and they were punished at 5-5 when an inspired Clement landed a stunning topspin lob on the baseline to break the Troicki serve before Clement squared the match with a thundering smash.

Visibly deflated, the Serbs immediately lost serve at the start of the fifth and, although they had opportunities to turn the tide back in their favor, Clement and Llodra held firm.

While the tennis was of a high quality, a controversial moment at the end of the second set caused commotion. French fans let out a collective “oooh” to signify a Troicki foot fault as the Serb hit a second serve at 6-5. After losing the point he and Zimonjic stormed to the chair to tell Molina the French fans had put them off.

Predictably, on the next point the Serbian fans followed suit, shouting out as the French players hit the ball, although it had a negative effect as Troicki promptly dropped serve. A Serb fan then sounded a horn as Llodra served in the first point of the tiebreaker and this time Molina ordered the point to be replayed, further inflaming the situation which was later played down by both teams.

“I don’t think one point, one person screaming on one point, can make the difference for a match like we played for more than four hours,” Clement said. “The key was the spirit we had on the court.”Reuters
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