Santoro takes France to Davis Cup semi-finals

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The Independent Online

Fabrice Santoro secured a place for the defending champions, France, in the Davis Cup semi-finals yesterday by beating Bohdan Ulihrach, of the Czech Republic, 7-6, 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 in the decisive final rubber at the Palais Omnisports in Pau. France now play either Spain or the United States.

Earlier, the Czech Republic's Jiri Novak had beaten Sebastien Grosjean, who had been troubled by a groin injury, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to level the quarter-final at 2-2. Santoro and Michael Llodra had given France a 2-1 lead by winning Saturday's doubles 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 against Jiri Novak and David Rikl.

Santoro closed out the match when Ulihrach sent his last forehand wide. Exhausted, he tossed his racket aside and hugged the France captain, Guy Forget.

"It's extraordinary," Santoro said of his victory. "It's a beautiful lesson in patience and courage," said Forget.

Russia shared the final two singles rubbers with Sweden in their Davis Cup quarter-final in Moscow yesterday after securing victory with a marathon 3-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 win for Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov against Thomas Johansson and Jonas Bjorkmanin in Saturday's doubles.

The Russians yesterday rested their two leading players, but Andrei Stoliarov beat Andreas Vinciguerra to show their strength in depth. Vinciguerra retired trailing 6-4, 5-2 in the second set. Sweden got on the scoreboard when the Australian Open winner, Thomas Johansson, dispatched Mikhail Youzhny with a 6-3, 6-4 victory. The 4-1 win was revenge for the Russians, who were beaten by the same score in last year's quarter-finals by the Swedes.

It was Russia's first Davis Cup victory over Sweden in five attempts.