France leads Czechs 2-1 in Davis Cup

Wimbledon doubles champions Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert had to fight hard to defeat Lukas Rosol and Radek Stepanek 6-1 3-6 6-3 4-6 6-4 to give France a 2-1 lead over the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.

A week after beating Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in straight sets to clinch their first Wimbledon title, Mahut and Herbert needed five sets on the indoor hard court for a victory that puts France one win away from a Davis Cup semifinal.

Amid increased security following the deadly attack in the French city of Nice, Mahut closed it out with an overhead volley on the first match point in the eastern Czech city of Trinec.

In Sunday’s first reverse singles, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can clinch the best-of-five series with a victory over Jiri Vesely. If he fails, the tie will be decided in the final reverse singles with Rosol facing Lucas Pouille.

On Friday, Rosol prevailed after almost four hours over Tsonga 6-4 3-6 4-6 7-6 (8) 6-4 to put the Czechs 1-0 ahead before Pouille made a victorious Davis Cup debut for France by beating Vesely 7-6 (2) 6-4 7-5 to level the tie at 1-1.

On the Czech pair, Rosol replaced originally named Adam Pavlasek who had a back problem, and struggled with his serve throughout. He was broken in the opening game of the final set in what turned out to be the decisive break.

The French pair didn’t waste time, jumping to a 3-0 lead in the first set that Mahut served out with an ace.

The Czechs replied with a 3-0 lead in the second set and Stepanek served it out with a service winner to come back.

Rosol double-faulted to drop his serve in the third set for the Czechs to trail 3-1. They saved two set points at 5-2 before Rosol’s return hit the net on the third set point.

In the most dramatic fourth set, Herbert gave the Czechs a chance to tie the set at 4-4 after two straight double faults. The French wasted a break point in the following game and the Czechs took the set when Herbert’s volley hit the net.

The winner faces the United States or Croatia in the semifinal in September.

In the last semifinals two years ago, France beat the Czechs before losing to Switzerland in the final. France won the last of its nine cups in 2001. The Czechs won in 2012 and 13.

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