VANCOUVER, CANADA: France are on the verge of advancing to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinals after a straight sets victory over Canada in Saturday’s doubles. Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau prevailed in tiebreakers in each of the first two sets and rolled to a 76(1) 76(2) 63 victory over Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor to take a 2-1 lead heading to Sunday’s reverse singles.
Neither side budged early in the match as both teams held serve in each of the first two sets, but the French pair rose to the challenge winning both tiebreakers handily. And despite the urging of a boisterous crowd, Canada were unable to mount a challenge in the third set. France broke Nestor’s serve to grab a 2-1 lead and later broke Raonic to close out the match.
“It was a difficult match even if it was three sets to love,” Llodra said. “We played better in the tiebreaks and it helps a lot to play good at the good moments. Me and Julien were like a family on the court and we fought for the country.”
Raonic was a surprise insertion into the doubles match by Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. At Thursday’s draw, Vasek Pospisil had originally been announced as Nestor’s partner. But with a split in Friday’s singles, Canada sensed an opportunity to take a 2-1 lead to Sunday and apply pressure on the heavily-favoured French squad with a victory in the doubles. That strategy, however, did not work. Llodra and Benneteau demonstrated great teamwork throughout the match and dashed the Canadian hopes of taking a lead to the final day of competition.
“We felt like we were doing an okay job – we weren’t playing poorly, but we weren’t doing anything special – and I think they played really well and maintained it the whole time,” said Raonic. “I obviously said on Thursday that if I was needed I would be ready to play on Saturday and that was the decision we made and we stuck to it.”
On Sunday, Raonic will face world No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needing a victory to keep Canada’s hopes alive. Tsonga was on form in a straight sets victory over Pospisil in the opening match of this tie on Friday.
There is still some mystery surrounding the final rubber of the weekend. Gael Monfils was replaced on Friday by Benneteau, who dropped a three-set decision to Raonic. French captain Guy Forget has insisted all week that Monfils remains an option to play despite nursing a sore knee. So it will either be Monfils or Benneteau facing Pospisil in a match that may not mean anything depending on the outcome of the early singles match on Sunday.
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Captain Guy Forget (FRA) - 11/02/2012
Michael Llodra (FRA) - 11/02/2012
Captain Martin Laurendeau (CAN) - 11/02/2012
Milos Raonic (CAN) - 11/02/2012
Daniel Nestor (CAN) - 11/02/2012