France hold advantage in Davis Cup final

Published by Reuters

France's Davis Cup doubles duo of Pierre-Hugues Herbert (L) and Richard Gasquet (R) celebrate their doubles victory over Belgium with French captain Yannick Noah (centre); Getty Images
France will take a valuable 2-1 lead into the final day of play in the Davis Cup final after winning Saturday’s doubles rubber in four sets.

France captain Yannick Noah gambled on an untested pair for the pivotal Davis Cup final doubles against Belgium but Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert’s win ensured his team were in the driving seat rather than the hot seat.

Despite a scare in the third set, Noah’s chosen duo beat Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore 6-1 3-6 7-6(2) 6-4 as France moved 2-1 ahead and within one win of a 10th Davis Cup title before Sunday’s reverse singles.

Noah had been expected to pick either Julien Benneteau or Nicolas Mahut, with whom Herbert won two Grand Slam titles, but he surprisingly went for Gasquet, thus putting out a combination who had never played together.

“It was a difficult decision because a lot of people did not have the same vision and even people within the group did not have the same vision,” Noah, who led France to Davis Cup titles as captain in 1991 and 1996, said.

Noah, however, stuck with his choice, which he made on Tuesday after Herbert and Gasquet showed great form at a training camp.

DAY 1: France and Belgium locked at 1-1

“It would have been much easier to make the politically correct decision and lose with honours,” he said.

“Personally, it’s good for me that they won because otherwise I would have been on a hot seat.”

Noah explained that Gasquet had been included in the team to replace Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Lucas Pouille in the singles in case of injury.

“This was a factor because I don’t think either of our three doubles specialists (Herbert, Benneteau and Mahut) would have been able to play a best-of-five set Davis Cup match on a Sunday,” he said.

Belgium captain Johan Van Herck defended his selection after deciding not to make room in the pair for the in-form David Goffin.

“A doubles is about who can play well with who and my feeling was that Ruben and Joris were the best pair for us today,” he said.

France will win the title before the fifth match if Tsonga beats world No.7 Goffin after both impressed during their singles wins on Friday.

“He has been thinking about this match for a while now and when he thinks about it, he sees himself winning it,” said Noah. “He is ready.”

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