Attacking France take 2-0 Davis Cup lead
Paris: Michael Llodra went all guns blazing and Gael Monfils outpaced David Nalbandian to put France on the verge of the Davis Cup final with a 2-0 lead over Argentina on Friday.
Llodra got the ball rolling with a 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Juan Monaco and Monfils followed up nicely by beating Nalbandian 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.
France only need one more point to seal their place in the final against either Serbia or the Czech Republic. Llodra and Arnaud Clement will pair up in the doubles against Horacio Zeballos and Eduardo Schwank on Saturday.
"I am so relieved tonight. I was very worried during the two matches but I (wanted to) go all out and shake them and that`s what we did," captain Guy Forget, who guided France to the 2001 title, told a press conference.
"Of course we can still lose this one but we could have lost the first two singles."
Llodra was first to hit the ball in a packed arena, where a few Olympique Lyon football players were spotted. Argentine Cesar Delgado was among them but he left his team mates to cheer on his country.
Llodra cancelled out an early break to bag the opening set with a superb forehand down the line, triggering wild celebrations in a packed Palais des Sports.
Despite the cries of support from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julien Benneteau, who are missing the tie through injury, Llodra conceded the second set as Monaco peppered the court with forehand winners.
He admitted he was nervous going on to the court.
"I did not sleep well, I was more nervous than usual," Llodra told reporters. "I did not play a great match but I focused on doing simple things, like play my attacking game."
Llodra continued to attack and broke Monaco`s resilience on his fifth set point to move ahead courtesy of a dazzling backhand down the line.
The Parisian stayed hot in the fourth set, dropping only five points on his serve and ended the contest with his 22nd ace.
"It probably turned his way in the beginning of the third set," Monaco said. "At that point it could have gone either way but he played well, he took risks and it eventually paid off."
Monfils took less risks but he got off to a bright start, capitalising on an early break to pocket the opening set.
"I found here what I could not find at the US Open," said Monfils, who was knocked out in the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows.
"When I was 3-0 down in the fourth set, Guy (Forget) told me not to worry. I could see that Nalbandian was struggling physically."
After taking the second set, the Argentine appeared to be playing on an empty tank before he dug deep into his reserves to race into a 3-0 lead in the fourth set.
Monfils kept his composure and grabbed every single opportunity to attack to take six games in a row and put France on the brink of the final after handing Nalbandian only his fifth defeat from 25 David Cup matches.
"The key was that he served much better than I did," Nalbandian told reporters. "His attacking game was very precise, much more than mine."
France last won the men`s team event in 2001 while Argentina are hoping to go one better this year than their three runners-up finishes.