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Doubles epic gives France Davis Cup lead

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Originally published on: 05/12/10 11:27

Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement clawed back a two set deficit against Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki to give France a 2-1 lead over Serbia going into the final day of the Davis Cup final.

The visitors emerged 3-6 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 6-4 victors in a match lasting four hours and 34 minutes in front of a raucous 17,000-strong crowd at the Belgrade Arena, with passions threatening to boil over from both sets of supporters at times.

The final now rests on the results of Sunday’s reverse singles, with Novak Djokovic set to face Gael Monfils and Janko Tipsarevic due up against either Llodra or Gilles Simon.

Clement saw his serve broken in the first two sets as final debutants Serbia notched up a two-set lead, as an enthralling encounter played out in a vociferous atmosphere that threatened to boil over towards the end of the second set.

With Serbia a set up and leading 6-5, French fans screamed for a foot fault on Troicki’s serve. Serbian supporters responded with loud jeers every time the French duo hit the ball once play continued.

With both teams appealing to the umpire, Tipsarevic appealed to the home crowd and warned them that Serbia could receive a point or game penalty if the fans continued to disrupt play.

France broke back before losing the ensuing tiebreak, but the nine-time champions staged a remarkable comeback over the next three sets.

“It was so hard mentally,” admitted France captain Guy Forget. “At two sets to love I said, ‘you can win the third, fourth and fifth, just forget about the crowd.'”

After taking the third set it was Clement, who had described himself as France’s World-Cup winning substitute defender Frank Lebeouf in the build-up to the match, who clinched a crucial break in game 11 of the fourth set with a spellbinding lob to level the match.

Zimonjic then lost his serve in the opening game of the final set, which proved to be eought to secure France a hard-earned victory.

“If they were able to win that match surely they can win any match in the Davis Cup,” said a delighted Forget. “It’s great to win when you don’t play well.

“We’re up 2-1, but it’s far from over,” he added. “Serbia were down 2-1 in the semis against the Czech Republic.

“My concern is to get Gael fit and motivated for tomorrow. Gael is ready for his first match against Novak. I think that is going to be an unbelievable match because both of them are playing really well.

“They’re great competitors. Both of them are pretty fresh because they haven’t played doubles.”

Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic slammed Serbian fans who “appeared to have bigger priorities” as they left at the start of the deciding fifth set.

“The fans have to understand that these lads are playing their hearts out for their country, they have sacrificed so much to get Serbia into the Davis Cup final.

“Zimonjic, for example, has missed his child’s birthday today and has played the entire campaign with an injured elbow. Not once has he complained.

“I expect the nation to wake up from the apathy it seems to have fallen into, stop taking us for granted, and we expect a partisan full house tomorrow because it’s still not over.”

“We are ready to fight tomorrow,” Obradovic added. “We have two more matches, and we will give our best effort tomorrow. We will try to win.”

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