NANCY, France (AP) — Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra held their nerve to beat Andre Begemann and Tobias Kamke 6-1, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-5 as France pulled back to 2-1 in their Davis Cup quarterfinal against Germany.
The French were under huge pressure after 12th-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tonsga and Benneteau lost their opening singles games on Friday against much lower-ranked opponents.
Germany opened up a 3-1 lead in the fourth set but the experienced French veterans stood up to the challenge, breaking back for 3-3.
They sealed victory on the third match point when Llodra chopped back Begemann’s serve and the German player could only pat the ball back into the net as he lunged forward.
“We’re still alive. It was a great performance from Julien and Mika. It’s very hard to play when you’re 2-0 down because you have no room for error,” France captain Arnaud Clement said. “It was a bit like yesterday but they dug deep to pull it off. They deserve it because they really pushed themselves.”
France needs to win both reverse singles on Sunday to progress to the semifinals.
“The whole team is getting involved and concentrating hard,” Clement said. “But we shouldn’t forget that Germany is 2-1 up.”
France took the first set when Llodra hit an agile backhand volley at the net.
Begemann hurt his left knee in the sixth game of the second set, appearing to twist it as he played a backhand. He was applauded by the crowd when he got back up to carry on.
After missing three chances to break in the 11th game, the French then held to send the second set into a tiebreaker.
On the first point, Benneteau’s stinging return from the back of the court struck Llodra on the back of the leg.
Benneteau’s double fault gave Germany a 4-3 lead with two serves to follow, but the French hit back and clinched the second set when Llodra’s scooped return landed at Begemann’s feet and he clipped it into the net.
France fell 0-40 down on Benneteau’s serve in the seventh game of the third set. The 33-year-old Benneteau saved one with a driving backhand, a second with a strong first serve and then a third with an ace for deuce. But Germany got another chance and moved 4-3 up, before serving out the set to get back into the match.
“It wasn’t easy. We found the mental capacity to fight back when things were looking tough,” Benneteau said. “There was a real Davis Cup atmosphere and I hope there is again tomorrow to help us come though.”
In Sunday’s matches, Tsonga is scheduled to play Kamke, and Benneteau faces Peter Gojowczyk, who secured an upset 5-7, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (8), 8-6 win against Tsonga in their marathon match.
“We’re not finished and this tie is far, far from being over,” Llodra said. “We showed the right attitude and things worked out well for us.”