De­fend­ing cham­pion France ad­vances to Davis Cup fi­nal

The Freeman - - SPORTS -

LILLE, France — Dou­bles pair Julien Ben­neteau and Ni­co­las Mahut gave France an unas­sail­able 3-0 lead over Spain in their Davis Cup semi­fi­nal on Satur­day (Sun­day, Phl time) as the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons reached back-to-back fi­nals for the first time since 2002.

The French vet­er­ans, both aged 36, de­feated Mar­cel Gra­nollers and Feli­ciano Lopez 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (7) on the in­door hard court set up in­side the Pierre Mau­roy soc­cer sta­dium.

Spain was with­out top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who was ruled out be­cause of the right-knee in­jury that forced him to re­tire from his US Open semi­fi­nal against Juan Martin del Potro last week.

Ben­neteau and Mahut were ex­pected to play in dou­bles in last year’s fi­nal against Bel­gium, but Yan­nick Noah de­cided at the last minute to field Richard Gas­quet and Pierre Hugues Her­bert. Their cap­tain’s de­ci­sion left them frus­trated and Ben­neteau later said be­ing left out was the hard­est mo­ment of his ca­reer.

This week­end the pair got an­other chance af­ter Her­bert was ruled out through in­jury and they did not dis­ap­point Noah, who gave a se­lec­tion to Ben­neteau af­ter he an­nounced his re­tire­ment dur­ing the US Open.

“I’m so happy, what a won­der­ful gift they’ve made to me, it’s un­be­liev­able,” said Noah, who will be re­placed by Amelie Mau­resmo as France’s cap­tain af­ter the fi­nal. “They played re­ally well, it’s the best match I’ve seen since I took over.”

Ben­neteau and Mahut got off to a fly­ing start, los­ing only four points in the 18-minute open­ing set. The Span­ish pair of Gra­nollers and Lopez looked out of sorts in the early stages but fi­nally man­aged to hold a ser­vice game at the start of the sec­ond, win­ning as many points in the open­ing game as they had in the en­tire first set.

The French pair dom­i­nated in ev­ery sec­tor and broke again in the third game af­ter Lopez failed to re­turn the ball and was hit in the face in­stead.

In the third set, Mahut was bro­ken at love in the sec­ond game as the Span­ish pair won eight con­sec­u­tive points to lead 2-0.

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