Australia last nation to recover from losing score 79 years ago
France clung to life 1-2 in the Davis Cup final as Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert managed a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3) defeat of Croatians Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic in Lille.
The defending champions thrilled many of the 26,000 fans who filled a football stadium in the northern industrial city as the hosts scored a must-win first point of the weekend after nearly three and three-quarter hours of struggle.
“We have to try to visualise a positive outcome to win the whole thing,” legendary French captain Yannick Noah said.
Added the skipper of a nation which has won its last seven Davis ties: “It’s a difficult task, a mountain to climb.
“But 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.”
Mahut and Herbert ran their Davis record together to 6-1 in the hard-fought win which keeps France in the trophy chase.
The winners produced 41 forehand winners and saved seven of nine break points as 11-time champion France work to become the first to recover from 2-0 down in a final since Australia did it 79 years ago.
The French pair have a dozen ATP titles and played final a week ago at the ATP season wrap-up in London.
Croatia and France are level in their series at one win apiece; should France work a miracle by winning both of the reverse singles rubbers, it would become the first nation to defend the Davis Cup title since the Czech Republic in 2012-2013.
Croatia have something to prove after losing the Argentina in Croatia in the 2016 final; the Balkan nation won the Cup in 2005 led by Roger Federer’s current coach Ivan Ljubicic.
A win by Croatian pacesetter Marin Cilic in reverse singles would ice the tie for the visitors,
On the doubles court, Mahut and Herbert swept the opening two sets but had to work harder after the Croatians took the third.
The fourth set was tight, with Pavic inconveniently double-faulting while serving as his side trailed 4-5 before finally escaping 5-all as the intensity and noise level in the stands mounted exponentially.
As the set went to a decider, the French pair grabbed a 4-1 margin, while Croatia managed to reach 3-4 before a Mahut winner handed France the victory.