Champions Serbia, France stay alive in Davis Cup

Paris: Defending champions Serbia and France stayed alive in their Davis Cup semi-finals when they both won their decisive doubles rubbers on Saturday.

In Belgrade, Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic defeated Argentina`s Juan Ignacio Chela and Juan Monaco 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 6-2 to trail 2-1 overall while in Cordoba Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra earned France their first point by beating Spanish duo Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-2, 6-0.

After world number one Novak Djokovic pulled out of the opening singles rubber on Friday, Serbia slumped 2-0 down overnight.

Djokovic was suffering from fatigue as well as a back injury picked up in his US Open final win over Rafael Nadal on Monday.

World number 74 David Nalbandian took full advantage of Djokovic`s absence on Friday to see off Troicki, who won the decisive leg of last year`s final against France, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Juan Martin Del Potro then eased past Janko Tipsarevic 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to give Argentina, who have never won the Davis Cup, a 2-0 lead.

But on Saturday Troicki and Zimonjic took a tense tiebreak and then battled back from 4-1 down in the second set, winning five games in succession, roared on by a 15,000-strong crowd.

"There was so much energy out there," said Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic, adding that Djokovic was fit to compete on Sunday.

"It was a must-win situation for us, we were definitely under pressure and we played really well under the circumstances," said Zimonjic.

"It was a difficult match, we had unbelievable support from the crowd and we are in good position now because I like our chances if Novak plays tomorrow."

In the Cordoba bullring, nine-time champions France needed to win after Nadal cast off fatigue to thrash Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 in Friday`s opening rubber and David Ferrer then defeated Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-4, 6-1.

And Tsonga and Llodra duly obliged giving their experienced Spanish rivals no chance.

But France captain Guy Forget warned: "We still have to beat the best player in the world on clay in the last six years at home. It’s not going to be easy. We still need a miracle."

Nadal takes on Simon in Sunday`s reverse singles with Ferrer drawn against Gasquet.

Meanwhile, International Tennis Federation chief Francesco Ricci hit back at Nadal, insisting the Spanish superstar was wrong to claim the gruelling tennis schedule was damaging players` welfare.

Nadal had even hinted at a players strike in protest at a calendar which required him to play Davis Cup just four days after losing in the US Open final in New York.

"I have the deepest respect for Nadal. He is a great champion and a sporting role model, but to accuse the Davis Cup of putting players` physical well-being at stake is incomprehensible," said Ricci.

"Why doesn`t Nadal address his complaints to the ATP which controls 90 percent of the calendar when we control just a few weeks?

"It is not acceptable to us to relax the Davis Cup calendar. The players already play less than two weeks of Davis Cup each year. We want to find more favourable dates; we are already putting all this on the table.

"We will see what solutions we can find."

Bureau Report

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