Holders Spain knocked out of the Davis Cup

PARIS: Defending champions Spain were knocked out of the Davis Cup on Saturday as France claimed an historic victory over the four-time winners in the quarter-finals.

The French achieved their first win over the Spaniards since 1923 after doubles pairing Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau beat Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/5).

That gave the French an unassailable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five rubber in Clermont Ferrand after the hosts won both Friday’s singles.

“We beat Spain, the defending champions. It’s unbelievable,” said Llodra.

“But we’re not finished making history yet. We have four guys who are in the Top 10. Russia or Argentina won’t be a walk in the park but we’re lucky to be hosting,” he added of their semi-final opponents in September.

In Moscow, Argentinian pair Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos lifted their side 2-1 up in their quarter-final showdown with Russia by beating Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Kunitsyn.

Serbia moved closer to a semi-final berth with either Chile or the Czech Republic after their doubles duo Nenad Zimonjic and Janko Tipsarevic gave them a 2-1 lead over hosts Croatia in the coastal town of Split.

The Czech Republic are leading 2-0 in Coquimbo, Chile after Ivo Minar beat Nicolas Massu 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 and Jan Hajek saw off Paul Capdeville 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 on Friday.

Spain, without Rafael Nadal, had left themselves with a mountain to climb after Friday’s two singles defeats as France’s decision to play the match on the lightning fast indoor court paid dividends.

Spain, champions for the last two years, went into the tie without world number one Nadal who is resting after winning the French Open and Wimbledon, while the French were also without their top player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who is suffering from a knee injury.

The French went 2-0 up after Gael Monfils and Michael Llodra beat clay specialists David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco respectively, with Llodra and Benneteau wrapping up the tie in Saturday’s doubles.

That leaves Sunday’s reverse singles to be played with only honour at stake.

Llodra and Benneteau raced away with the first two sets and were on target for an easy win, leading 4-2 in the third set.

Despite a match point in the ensuing tiebreak the Spanish held firm to take the score to 2-1.

Invigorated by that comeback the French duo made Llodra and Benneteau dug deep for victory, which they achieved by holding their nerve to win the fourth set tiebreak.

In Moscow, Schwank and Zeballos won 7-6 (9/7), 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-1 in three hours six minutes to make it 2-1 in the favour of the visitors.

“Our pair looked very impressive today,” Argentina’s skipper Tito Vasquez said. “They recently won the Pan American Games and I believe they have a bright future.”

On Friday, David Nalbandian put Argentina into the lead beating Davydenko 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6) before Mikhail Youzhny put Russia back on track with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Leonardo Mayer.

In Split, Zimonjic and Tipsarevic beat Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in just under two hours.

That gave Serbia a 2-1 lead after they shared points Friday when world number two Novak Djokovic beat Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 6-1, and Cilic saw off Serb Viktor Troicki 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

Cilic and Dodig’s only chance to change the result came at the beginning of the third set when they broke, but Zimonjic and Tipsarevic quickly made two breaks and turned the result to 3-2 in the decisive set.

“We had a slight slump at the beginning of the third set, but we managed to prevail,” said Zimonjic.

“This victory will give our team a psychological advantage,” he added.

The result will be decided in Sunday’s reverse singles with Cilic bidding to finally score a win over Djokovic having lost their four pervious ties.

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