Davis Cup: Herbert, Mahut keep France alive in final

Published by Reuters

Pierre-Hugues Herbert (L) and Nicolas Mahut celebrate their victory over Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic in the doubles rubber, a result keeping France alive in the Davis Cup final (Getty Images)
After losing both singles matches in straight sets on Friday, France bounces back against Croatia with a win in the Saturday’s crucial doubles rubber.

France kept their Davis Cup final hopes alive as Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert beat Croatian pair Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic 6-4 6-4 3-6 7-6(3) in a tense doubles battle in a raucous Stade Pierre Mauroy.

Yannick Noah’s champions had their backs against the wall on Saturday after losing both Friday’s singles rubbers but Herbert and Mahut began the fightback, reducing the deficit to 2-1 and ensuring the last Davis Cup in its present guise will stretch into Sunday.

The odds are still stacked in Croatia’s favour as no team has recovered from 2-0 down to win the trophy since Australia beat the United States in 1939.

But with 26,000 mainly flag-waving French fans set to flock back into the cavernous home of Lille’s soccer club on Sunday, hope still remains that Noah can sign off after his third stint in charge by delivering an 11th title for France.

Reminded that history is not on France’s side, Noah sounded the rallying cry for the final day when Lucas Pouille is likely to be recalled to play the fourth rubber against Marin Cilic.

“We have to try to visualise a positive outcome to win the whole thing,” Noah, whose team have won seven successive ties since a semifinal defeat to Croatia in 2016, told reporters.

“It’s a difficult task, a mountain to climb. But you saw today, the fans got involved.

“That can be positive for us and negative for the other side. We don’t know what’s going to happen but we’re thankful we are playing a match tomorrow that still counts.”

The result also contained a measure of revenge for Herbert and Mahut, with Mahut accused of “acting” by Pavic when they last met on the doubles court at the ATP Finals.

Croatia began strongly on Friday, with Borna Coric and Marin Cilic both completing straight-sets victories over Jeremy Chardy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga respectively.

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