Davis Cup diehards put France in driving seat

There are times when there is no substitute for experience and Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clément used all their years of know-how to put France in pole position to win the Davis Cup final in Belgrade yesterday.

The French pair fought back from two sets down to beat Serbia's Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki 4-6 6-7 6-4 7-5 6-4 after more than four and a half hours of tension-filled drama. With a 2-1 lead, France need to win just one of today's reverse singles to claim the trophy for the 10th time, a record bettered only by the United States and Australia.

Llodra, 30, and Clément, 32 are a highly experienced pair who used to be regular partners on the tour. Zimonjic, 34, is world No 3 in doubles and won the title at the recent ATP World Tour Finals in London, and it was his 24-year-old partner who finally cracked under the weight of home expectations in the Belgrade Arena.

Troicki played with great assurance in the first two sets, but his nerve appeared to desert him while Llodra and Clément kept theirs.

Should Serbia lose in their first appearance in the final their captain, Bogdan Obradovic, will reflect long and hard on his decision not to risk replacing Troicki with Novak Djokovic, the world No 3 and his team's talisman, in the doubles.

Djokovic had a comparatively easy victory over Gilles Simon in his first singles match. In this afternoon's first reverse singles rubber he faces Gaël Monfils, and he has beaten the world No 12 in all five of their previous meetings.

The nominated players for the fifth rubber are Janko Tipsarevic and Simon, though the captains can change their line-up. Guy Forget in particular will surely be tempted to bring in Llodra, who has enjoyed one of the best years of his career.

It now seems unlikely that Serbia might go with Troicki ahead of Tipsarevic, who was swept aside in straight sets by Monfils on Friday. An uncomplicated player whose game is based on a heavy serve and big ground strokes, Troicki began confidently enough only for the occasion apparently to get the better of him.

The atmosphere inside the Belgrade Arena was electric and there were occasions when both pairs had cause for complaint over the behaviour of unruly spectators in the 16,200 crowd, with nearly 2,000 French fans.

If Troicki stumbled towards the end, it was Clément who took time to find his feet at the start. He was the only player to drop serve in the first set, which Zimonjic clinched with three successive service winners.

Zimonjic, who will partner Llodra on the tour next year, saved a set point at 4-5 in the second set with another big serve. The Serbs went on to break Clément again in the following game. Troicki, unsettled by a shout from among the French supporters, dropped serve at 6-5, but the home pair recovered their composure to win the tie-break 7-3.

The match turned in the first game of the third set as Troicki was broken again. With Clément finding his form and Llodra serving and volleying well, the French took the set with ease. The fourth was closer but at 5-5 Troicki was broken once again, Clément sealing the game with a superb lob and then serving out to level the match.

At the start of the decider it was Zimonjic who dropped serve, for the only time. The Serbs had two points to break back when Clément served at 4-3, but Troicki wasted a glorious chance when he put a forehand in the net and the French pair held on. Llodra, who held his serve all afternoon, ended it with a sweet forehand volleyon the second match point. This afternoon should be some finale.


Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'