Australia, France near Davis Cup final
PARIS: Australia edged closer to a first Davis Cup final in 14 years on Saturday when Jordan Thompson and John Peers swept past Arthur De Greef and Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 for a 2-1 lead in their semifinal in Brussels.
Australia, the 28-time champions, look likely to face nine-time winners France who are 2-1 up on Serbia in Lille thanks to Nicolas Mahut and PierreHugues Herbert clinching a 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) win over Nenad Zimonjic and Filip Krajinovic.
Lleyton Hewitt’s Australia last won the Davis Cup in 2003 when they beat Spain in the final.
“We had a job to do today and we came out and did it from start to finish. Playing with Thommo and in front of this crowd and perform the way we did is just incredible,” said Peers.
Nick Kyrgios can wrap up the tie for Australia on Sunday when he takes on fellow national No. 1 David Goffin in the first of the reverse singles.
Kyrgios defeated Steve Darcis 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2 on Friday while Goffin saw off John Millman 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.
In Lille, Mahut and Herbert needed less than two hours to see off Serbia’s 41-year-old playing captain Zimonjic and Krajinovic.
That Yannick Noah’s hosts have yet to book their place in the final is down to Dusan Lajovic’s shock 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/5) win in Friday's opening rubber against Lucas Pouille, although Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had levelled the tie by beating debutant Laslo Djere 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 6-3.
Mahut and Herbert, the 2015 US Open and 2016 Wimbledon champions, came back from 5-2 down in the third set to wrap up the win.
France are bidding for a first Davis Cup title since 2001, having lost three finals since with the most recent a defeat by Roger Federer’s Switzerland in 2014. Brazil player fined $1,500 for ‘racist’ gesture
Brazilian player Guilherme Clezar was fined $1,500 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Saturday for making what appeared to be a slit-eyed gesture in a Davis Cup tie in Japan.
The 24-year-old had earlier issued an apology but denied any racist intent following an incident during his defeat by Yuichi Sugita on Friday in Brazil’s world group playoff against the hosts in Osaka.
After successfully challenging a line call in the third-set tiebreak, an exasperated Clezar stretched his eyes in an apparent criticism of the line judge who made the ball call.
The gesture was caught on local television and the ITF has subsequently decided to hand down the fine for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after the footage was reviewed by the tie referee.
The player insisted he had not meant to insult Japanese people in a post on the Brazilian tennis federation’s Facebook page.
“I want to underline that I never had the slightest intention to be aggressive, racist, prejudiced or anything of the type against Asian people,” said Clezar, who lost the opening rubber 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 before Brazil fell 2-0 down in the tie.
“We have been extremely well received here and I have an excellent relationship with all tennis players from many different countries on the circuit,” he added.
“Even though I didn’t mean any prejudice, I recognise the gesture doesn’t ring true with the attitudes of respect, enthusiasm, solidarity, emotion and many other things that sport means to us and I want to express my regret and my most sincere apologies.”
Clezar, who also issued an apology from his Instagram account, is ranked 244th in the world and mainly competes on the Challenger tour.
Japan took a stranglehold on the Osaka tie after Go Soeda followed Sugita's win over Clezar by squeezing past Thiago Monteiro with a nervy 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 victory.
Australia’s captain Lleyton Hewitt, center, and players Jordan Thompson, right, and John Peers celebrate after winning the Davis Cup semi final between Belgium and Australia in Brussels on Saturday. (AFP)