It was a stunning start to the semifinal weekend for France as the home side took on Argentina in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas.
At the start of the weekend the French captain Guy Forget would have been hoping to sweep the first day’s singles. He certainly would not have been expecting it, but after five hours and 57 minutes of play, hopes were brought to realisation. France took a 2-0 lead over Argentina and is one rubber away from a place in the final.
“I’ve seen it all in Davis Cup throughout the years, you don’t expect anything because anything can happen,” Forget said. “All the matches are always crucial and all the guys always give their best in this competition, more than any other tournament.
“We have seen two great matches and I am relieved tonight that we are at 2-0 but it’s still a long way to go and things can turn around really quickly and I want to make sure that this is not going to happen.
“Tonight we are going to focus on the match that we are going to play tomorrow and we don’t want to think about celebrating or having fun. There’s no fun yet, it’s best of five matches and we won the first two. We only have one more match to win.”
With France having secured the first point when Michael Llodra won his singles, Gael Monfils and David Nalbandian took to the court. The pressure was firmly on the Argentine’s shoulders and at the end Monfils added to the pressure as he went on to win 64 26 64 63.
Monfils flung himself through the air
Here was a match between two players that are captivating to watch. Monfils with his athleticism and Nalbandian with his priceless stroke play. Some of the returns they attempted saw them flying through the air, in particular Monfils who would fling himself at the ball.
Monfils broke the Nalbandian serve in the first game and went on to open up a 4-1 lead with a second break in the fifth game. However Nalbandian struck back a game later and managed to retrieve one of the two service breaks he had suffered.
The Frenchman held onto his single remaining break and served out the set in 36 minutes. Nalbandian lifted his level of play but even though the second set was just eight games, each game was a battle.
Monfils scored a break in the third game of the third set and kept that lead clinching the set with a service winner. It then seemed that the match might go the distance as Nalbandian opened up a 3-0 lead but the crowd raised their voices another decibel and Monfils clawed back. Six games in a row fell his way and with that, France was in the driver’s seat.
“I knew before it would be an amazing experience and it is, it is,” Monfils said. “For me a lot of emotion came out today, it was unbelievable. I won, I played great tennis and I am more than happy now.
“I would like to say thanks to the French crowd, they have been behind me during all the match. And they gave me like wings so I was flying on the court. You can’t reach every ball but this helped me a lot. I played strong tennis, David played good also, that’s why I think we gave a great match today.”
Nalbandian said his serve let him down through the match and Monfils was able to play the big points well.
“Nobody wants to lose, never, but I think I didn’t play a bad match but, in the important moments, he played better than me,” Nalbandian said. “I didn’t serve very good. I think that was most of the key of the match.
“He served very good and I couldn’t return very good. And that was the key.”
Llodra closed with a brilliant ace
Earlier Llodra said once he got over his nervous start he felt so comfortable on the court and that allowed his serve to work effectively against Juan Monaco. The Frenchman closed out the match with a brilliant ace 75 46 76 63.
Attention will now turn to the doubles rubber and a match that should prove to be quite superb. Llodra will team with Arnaud Clement - both have been Wimbledon champions - taking on Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zabellos who were semifinalists at the recent US Open.
“Llodra is my pick for the doubles even though he rolled his ankle in the singles but he seems alright,” Forget said. “He and Arnaud are going to show a lot of heart. They still have a lot of experience even though they haven’t played together for awhile. We are hoping for the best and hopefully that magic between them can come back but they are going to have to play really well to win the doubles.”