French renaissance silences Yeltsin

France will win the Davis Cup for the 10th time today, overtaking Britain in third place behind the United States (with 31 wins) and Australia (27), unless Russia's Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov can dredge reserves of inspiration to compensate for fatigue after losing the doubles in five sets yesterday. The Russians are 2-1 down with two singles to play.

The killer blow in yesterday's contest ­ and perhaps the final ­ was the Russians' inability to consolidate a lead of two sets to one and 2-0 in the fourth set against Fabrice Santoro and Nicolas Escudé. The Frenchmen broke back to 2-2, and then cracked Safin's serve for the first time in the match to take a decisive 4-2 lead. When Safin was broken a second time at the start of the fifth set, the spirit began to drain from the Russians and their animated chief supporter, Boris Yeltsin.

Yeltsin led the applause and raised his right arm in a clench-fisted salute after the Russian team had taken the initiative. The former president's wife, Naina, waved a small Russian flag, which drooped as their optimism turned to disappointment.

Santoro and Escudé, having watched Safin defeat the debutant Paul-Henri Mathieu, and then Sebastien Grosjean level the tie by overwhelming Kafelnikov on Friday, can now sit back and savour the concluding singles matches after prevailing yesterday, 6-3 3-6 5-7 6-3 6-4.

Russia's two-man force will try to mock the odds against them as they drag their weary limbs into a third day of campaigning. Safin must overcome Grosjean in a duel of the No 1s in order to give Kafelnikov the chance to win the tie in a fifth rubber against Mathieu. As things stand, the 28-year-old Kafelnikov's dream of retiring in possession of the trophy seems remote.

Kafelnikov, who was on the losing side in Russia's two previous finals, against Sweden in 1994 and the US in 1995, needed to perform better than he did against Grosjean to take the pressure off ­ pressure he had built by saying for months that he wanted to end his career with a Davis triumph.

While yesterday's doubles was an anti-climax for the Russians, it was a marvellous match, full of twists of fortune, dazzling rallies and agonising errors of judgement. Having broken Kafelnikov's serve in the fourth game, the Russian double-faulting, the Frenchmen took the opening set without extending themselves. Yeltsin took off his jacket, as if he wanted to join in.

Kafelnikov's serve was threatened again in the third game of the second set, but he saved a break point with a potent second serve. Santoro lost his serve in the fourth game, Kafelnikov winning a spectacular exchange. Yeltsin leaned forward in anticipation.

Although Kafelnikov lost his serve for 1-3 in the third set, Santoro was broken twice. Escudé, who wore a support for his lower back, had treatment before the start of the fourth set. He lost his serve in the opening game, but made amends by breaking Safin for 4-2 to put the home supporters in the mood for a party.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz