Photo: Paul ZimmerTeam France celebrate victory
Czech Republic, France, Italy and Switzerland progressed to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals on 12-14 September after a thrilling and historic weekend of action in tennis’ premier international team competition.
France, Italy and Switzerland all won their quarterfinals in decisive fifth rubbers – the first time in the history of the World Group that three of the four last eight clashes have gone to a live fifth match – while Arnaud Clement’s France pulled off the first comeback from 0-2 down in a World Group tie in 16 years against Germany in Naples.
Not since Sweden recovered from the loss of the opening two matches against Slovak Republic in 1998 had a team staged such a recovery in the elite tier of the competition.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils inflicted the decisive blows for France after Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra had given France a lifeline in Saturday’s doubles, serving up heartbreak for Germany who had gained an unlikely 2-0 lead on the opening day courtesy of Tobias Kamke and Andre Begemann.
Tsonga brushed past Kamke 63 62 64 in an hour and 42 minutes in the fourth rubber, before Gael Monfils sparked jubilant scenes in Nancy with a 61 76(0) 62 win over Tsonga’s opening day conqueror Peter Gojowczyk.
Switzerland and Italy also staged nail-biting comebacks, both recovering from 2-1 down after losing Saturday’s doubles.
In Geneva, Switzerland was given a real scare by in-form Kazakh Andrey Golubev, who defeated Stanislas Wawrinka in four sets in the opening singles rubber before combining with Kazakh debutant Aleksandr Nedovyesov for a shock doubles win.
Wawrinka kept Swiss heads above water in Sunday’s first reverse singles, albeit in a testing 67 64 64 64 triumph, before Federer splintered Golubev’s resistance in straight sets to see the host nation through to its first semifinal since 2003.
Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi ended an even longer semifinal wait for Italy, guiding Corrado Barazzutti’s men back into the last four for the first time since 1998 with victory over Great Britain in Naples.
Fognini won the key fourth rubber, denying Leon Smith’s travelling side their first Davis Cup semifinal since 1981, with a stunning display of clay court tennis against two-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray.
“He [Fognini] played very well, that’s for sure,” admitted Murray after his 63 63 64 defeat. “He’s a very good player, especially on this surface. I knew it was going to be a tough one and I wasn’t quite able to play well enough.”
Murray’s defeat left Andreas Seppi with the chance to seal the triumph and he duly delivered, sweeping James Ward 64 63 64 in two hours and 17 minutes to send the delighted Italians into party mode.
“We have waited for a long time to go into the semifinals,” said captain Barazzutti. “We are very satisfied for that.
“This is really a great victory. We started the day with two difficult matches. My players played two great matches. It’s difficult to believe that we won six sets.”
Read the report from each of the quarterfinal's here:
Czech Republic 5-0 Japan
France 3-2 Germany
Italy 3-2 Great Britain
Switzerland 3-2 Kazakhstan