BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: France looked on their way to an expected doubles victory at 1-1 and 5-2 up in the third set in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal against Argentina on Saturday.
Instead, Argentine pair David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos turned the match around, taking all but three of the last 14 games to beat Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra 36 76(3) 75 63 and put Argentina 2-1 up in the tie at Parque Roca.
Argentine fans, who expected a 5-0 whitewash from a French team that picked their singles players from three in the world’s top 13, now believe they can beat France for the first time in six meetings and reach the semifinals.
“When there is unity in the team, everything works better,” Argentina’s captain Martin Jaite told the post-match news conference.
Argentina’s top player Juan Martin del Potro, who has never been at ease in the team, made himself unavailable for the Davis Cup this year preferring to concentrate on his tour career.
“(But) we haven’t won anything yet,” warned Jaite. “If we win, we’re going to be a lot happier and if we lose we’ll know we gave everything.”
Benneteau said it was a hard loss but that the pair had nothing to reproach themselves for.
“It’s a tough defeat, at 1-1 the doubles point is loaded. It’s not easy to digest…They were simply stronger tan us,” Benneteau said.
“We know that in doubles things can change very quickly…, They really galvanised themselves (but) they never dominated during the match.”
Nalbandian was the first player to lose serve as France went 4-3 up and eased to the first set. The second had no breaks of service going to a tiebreak which the Argentines took 7-3.
France raced through the opening games of the third set and Argentina looked on the ropes but they worked their way back into the match.
Nalbandian hit Llodra on the back with the slam that clinched the break of service that sparked Argentina’s climb-back but the Frenchman said it had not affected his performance afterwards.
“It was a set point… I was close to the net and he decided to play towards me but it wasn’t the decisive incident of the match,” he said.
French captain Arnaud Clement said: “The two matches tomorrow will be just as hard to win for the Argentines.
“I’m still confident, we still have our chances to pass this round. If we want to win the Cup we have to be able to turn this situation around.”
Clement said Gilles Simon, who had complained of a back pain during his singles defeat by Juan Monaco on Friday, was fit but he would not commit himself to revealing who would play the fifth rubber.
“We’ll discuss it at a meeting with all of us together this evening and you’ll know tomorrow,” Clement said.
He said Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had recovered from his five-set victory over Carlos Berlocq in the opening rubber and was ready to face Monaco first on Sunday.
“He was very, very strong (on Friday), he’s had a day to recover and tomorrow he’ll be in good shape for his match.”
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Arnaud Clement (FRA) - 06/04/2013
Captain Martin Jaite (ARG) - 06/04/2013
Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau (FRA) - 06/04/2013
David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos (ARG) - 06/04/2013