Tennis: France cruise past Spain into Davis Cup final

Mahut (centre) and Benneteau celebrate with France's team captain Yannick Noah (right). PHOTO: AFP

VILLENEUVE-D'ASCQ, France (AFP) - Defending Davis Cup champions France took an unassailable 3-0 semi-final lead over Spain on Saturday (Sept 15) when Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau beat Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) in the third of five rubbers on the Lille hardcourt.

France, captained by 1983 French Open winner Yannick Noah, will meet either Croatia or the United States in the final in late November.

"The way my guys played today - they were so good," said Noah.

"Benneteau was probably the best player on the court and his attitude was unbelievable," Noah said of the man set to retire after the final.

Davis Cup rookie Benoit Paire gave France a winning start on Friday when the bearded 29-year-old enjoyed what he termed "a dream" 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Pablo Carreno Busta.

Lucas Pouille's nerve-jangling five-set victory - 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 - over Roberto Bautista-Agut in the following match made it 2-0.

Spain coach Sergi Bruguera said he was very proud of his team despite the scoreline.

"It was a difficult scenario and we didn't take full advantage of our opportunities," he said.

"Mahut and Benneteau played a fabulous game," he said.

"We were sweating blood for every point and in the end it was decided on minor details," he explained.

"So all I can do is congratulate them, we did absolutely everything we could have done."

Croatia could clinch their final ticket in Saturday's doubles in Zadar in which Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic will face Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison.

Some fans in the Lille stadium where France hosted Spain wore black t-shirts as a form of "mourning" as the Davis Cup is in its final year before becoming the Tennis World Cup. A large banner was unfurled reading "Change it Back".

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