Two-time defending Davis Cup champions Spain are struggling to reproduce their past results without the help of their resting superstar Rafael Nadal. Overnight the French took a 2-0 lead in the meet that is being played on hard courts at Zenith Grand Hall d’Auvergne.
Gael Monfils pushed David Ferrer to five sets, eventually prevailing in just under four hours to claim only his second Davis Cup win 7-6, 6-2, 4-6, 5-7, 6-4. It was an inspired performance from Monfils who produced 101 winners during the match. Scrappy Ferrer fought back from a 2-5 deficit in the fifth set but was unable to secure the rubber for Spain.
“It was a tough match from the baseline. I played really strong, very solid. I impressed myself today, I kept a lid on myself. It was hard, I was two sets up, then he came back, and then I served for the match in the fifth and I didn’t make it. I kept going, I kept believing in my skill and then it was one point for France.”
Michael Llodra then claimed an unexpected scalp in his rubber, defeating Fernando Verdasco 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6. Verdasco, who can play quite well on a hard court, has had a series of disappointing losses since playing too many tournaments in the lead up to Roland Garros, subsequently failing to produce anything of note in Paris or Wimbledon. Verdasco and Llordra battled for three hours and 25 minutes.
Verdasco had been down 2-4 in the fourth set but fought back to force a tie-break, but had no answer for the all out attack from Llordra, who took the tie-break 7-2, refusing to let the match slip into a fifth set. Fernando struggled with his serve throughout the match
After the match Llordra said; “Anything can happen in Davis Cup. Today it was a good atmosphere on the court and I wanted to play my best tennis. It was perfect. I knew before the match that, on this surface, if I played aggressive then Fernando might miss some shots.”
Spanish captain Albert Costa spoke after the ties with some hope that the his players could fight back. “Of course, it has been a bad day. I don’t have many regrets as my players gave everything they had. We only have a slim chance of winning and we’ll try to get one point after an other. As long as there is life, there is hope.”
The French captain Guy Forget was ecstatic with his players. “Spain were the favourites and I told my team that, on a faster court like this one, if they were really aggressive and going for their shots, we had a chance. Our best chance was actually to go forward and not to wait for the Spanish to miss because they hardly miss. Gael and Michael today just pleased me so much today with the way they played.”
France has not won the Davis Cup since 2001. Spain has not lost a tie since the quarterfinals in 2007. If France win it will be the first time they have defeated Spain since 1923.
Despite the fact that Spain has never come back from a 0-2 deficit, Verdasco, leading the team in Nadal’s absence, has hope that the team can fight back. “I think that the doubles is the match that, because of our game, we have a little bit more chances to win the match. Always the doubles matches are really close and we both serve good and they both serve good so we both will have chances to win. We’ll see and obviously we’ll try our best. It’s so hard because of the court but we still believe we can come back.”