STUTTGART, GERMANY: France have secured their place in September’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals. The French doubles team of Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Germany’s Christopher Kas and Philipp Petzschner 76(4) 64 64 to give the visitors to Stuttgart an unassailable 3-0 lead.
The result continues France’s stranglehold over Germany in the competition. With this win, the French have now won 18 consecutive live rubbers in a record dating back to the 1953 tie played between these two nations, which France won 4-1 after Gottfried von Cramm had given Germany a 1-0 lead.
Despite the presence of Boris Becker and Michael Stich, who never played singles against France (Becker lost one doubles), the great Baron von Cramm remains the last German to have beaten a Frenchman in tennis’s premier team competition.
The doubles was won and lost at the end of the first set, in fact the conclusion of that set was a microcosm for the whole weekend. The German pair broke to lead 6-5 thanks to two Llodra double faults and a scorching forehand winner by Petzschner, but then were broken to love as Kas made three elementary errors at the net.
Twice the German pair led the tiebreak by a minibreak, but more mistakes at the net saw the French come back. The set was won on a mis-hit Tsonga forehand that Kas thought was sailing over his baseline but which he realised too late was going to drop in. As a way of blowing one’s chances, it was pretty impressive.
That breathed more life into the French pair, who looked the stronger team throughout the second set and got their reward with a break in the seventh game. The only time they wobbled was in serving for the set. Kas and Petzschner saved three set points in the 10th game, and had a break-back point of their own. But once it had been missed, the French sealed a two sets lead.
If the Germans were going to get back in the match, they needed to convert one of the two break points they had at 4-3 on the Llodra serve. But both players missed returns of serve, and in the next game Kas was broken. Tsonga duly served out the victory, Llodra finishing the job with a forehand volley after 2 hours 15 minutes.
After the match, the German team reacted very defensively to a question from a German journalist, who suggested that they never believed in their chances of victory. “Do you play tennis?” Petzschner asked the man who had asked the question, who said he did. “If you look at how Kasi and I fought hard when we were two sets down, to the point where we gave everything to get to two break points in the third set, I think your assessment is a misjudgement.”
France’s captain Guy Forget said: “I knew the tie was going to be close and difficult, even though we’ve won by Saturday night – all the matches were really tight, and I’m really glad the French players took it so seriously and played with a lot of heart.”
Whether the French are home or away in September’s semifinals depends on the outcome of the USA-Spain tie in Austin. If Spain were to complete the now expected victory, the French would travel to Spain, but if USA were to stage a spectacular comeback, France would be at home. Indeed, the French Tennis Federation has already indicated a France-USA semifinal would be played at Roland Garros.
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Captain Guy Forget (FRA) - 09/07/2011
Interview Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) - 09/07/2011
Captain Patrik Kuhnen (GER) - 09/07/2011
Philipp Petzschner (GER) - 09/07/2011