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DC: France end Spain’s hat-trick hunt

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Originally published on: 12/07/10 10:50

France will contest their first Davis Cup semi-final since 2004 after a stunning 5-0 whitewash of defending champions Spain.

The visitors’ hopes of a third successive title, a feat only ever achieved by the United States, were left in tatters after Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau beat Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez 6-1 6-2 6-7(6) 7-6(5) in Saturday’s doubles to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead.

The win is France’s first over Spain since 1923 and sets up a semi-final against Argentina, who ended Russia’s 14-year unbeaten home record with a tense 3-2 win.

Michael Llodra, who beat Fernando Verdasco in Friday’s singles to follow up Gael Monfils’ opening-rubber win over David Ferrer, said he hoped France would go on and win the trophy.

“I was 11 when I watched Guy and Henri beat the United States in the final of the Davis Cup in 1991,” he said. “It has always been my dream to emulate them. We have beaten the holders and it’s fantastic.”

France will have to beat Argentina if they are to reach their first final since 2002 after David Nalbandian clinched the deciding rubber to oust hosts Russia.

Nikolay Davydenko’s 4-6 6-1 6-3 6-4 win over Eduardo Schwank left the tie balanced at 2-2, but Nalbandian produced a nerveless display to down Mikhail Youzhny 7-6(5) 6-4 6-3 to book Argentina’s spot in the semi-finals for the sixth time in the past decade.

Serbia will feature in their first Davis Cup semi-final after Novak Djokovic’s 6-3 6-3 6-2 victory over Marin Cilic sealed an unassailable 3-1 lead over fierce rivals Croatia.

“This is probably the sweetest victory in my career because this is not just an individual win, but a victory for my country,” said the world No.2 shortly before Janko Tipsarevic completed a 4-1 win. “We won in one of the toughest atmospheres against a team that has a lot of success in this competition.”

The semi-final debutants will face last year’s beaten finalists the Czech Republic, who had booked their spot by Saturday after winning the opening three rubbers of the tie. Lukas Dlouhy fell to Jorge Aguillar 6-1 7-6(6) in a rare singles outing, before Ivo Minar made it 4-1 with a 7-6(2) 6-2 victory against Christobal Saavedra.

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