international tennis

Australia and France edge closer to Davis Cup final showdown

Lleyton Hewitt’s team last won the Davis Cup in 2003 while France are bidding for a first title since 2001, having lost three finals.

Australia edged closer to a first Davis Cup final in 14 years on Saturday when Jordan Thompson and John Peers swept past Arthur De Greef and Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 for a 2-1 lead in their semi-final against Belgium.

Australia, the 28-time champions, look likely to face nine-time winners France who are 2-1 up on Serbia thanks to Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert clinching a 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) win over Nenad Zimonjic and Filip Krajinovic.

Lleyton Hewitt’s Australia last won the Davis Cup in 2003 when they beat Spain in the final.

“We had a job to do today and we came out and did it from start to finish. Playing with Thommo and in front of this crowd and perform the way we did is just incredible,” said Peers after Saturday’s win in Brussels.

Nick Kyrgios can wrap up the tie for Australia on Sunday when he takes on fellow national number one David Goffin in the first of the reverse singles.

Kyrgios defeated Steve Darcis 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2 on Friday, while Goffin saw off John Millman 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

In Lille, Mahut and Herbert needed less than two hours to see off Serbia’s 41-year-old playing captain Zimonjic and Krajinovic.

That Yannick Noah’s hosts have yet to book their place in the final is down to Dusan Lajovic’s shock 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/5) win in Friday’s opening rubber against Lucas Pouille, although Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had levelled the tie by beating debutant Laslo Djere 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 6-3.

Mahut and Herbert, the 2015 US Open and 2016 Wimbledon champions, came back from 5-2 down in the third set to wrap up the win.

France are bidding for a first Davis Cup title since 2001, having lost three finals since with the most recent a defeat by Roger Federer’s Switzerland in 2014.

“Nico and Pierre-Hugues had a mini-test at the end. It was probably too easy and they wanted to give me an ulcer,” joked Noah.

Other results

In the play-offs, where the winning teams will compete in the World Group in 2018, Japan’s tie with Brazil in Osaka was overshadowed by a racism row.

Brazil’s Guilherme Clezar was fined $1,500 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for making what appeared to be a slit-eyed gesture.

The 24-year-old journeyman issued an apology but denied any racist intent following the incident during his defeat by Yuichi Sugita on Friday.

After successfully challenging a line call in the third-set tiebreak, an exasperated Clezar stretched his eyes in an apparent criticism of the line judge who made the call.

Saturday’s action was rained off with Japan 2-0 ahead after Friday’s opening singles.

In Astana, Kazakhstan are 2-1 up on 2016 champions Argentina while 2014 winners Switzerland trail Belarus 2-1 in Biel.

Max Mirnyi, 40, celebrated his 55th tie for Belarus over a 24-year career by teaming with Andrei Vasilevski in a 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3) win over Adrian Bodmer and Luca Margaroli.

Boris Becker, recently-installed as Germany’s head of tennis, saw his team edge 2-1 ahead of Portugal in Lisbon.

The Czech Republic lead the Netherlands 2-1 in The Hague while Hungary have a similar advantage over Russia at Budapest as do Croatia against Colombia in Bogota.

In Edmonton, Canada took a 2-1 lead over India with 44-year-old Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil seeing off Rohan Bopanna and Purav Raja 7-5, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.

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