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France rallies, leads Serbia 2-1 in Davis Cup

SHARE France rallies, leads Serbia 2-1 in Davis Cup

BELGRADE, Serbia — France rallied from two sets down to defeat Serbia in doubles Saturday and take a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup final.

Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra overcame Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki and the hometown crowd in Belgrade Arena to win 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

"The key was the spirit we had on the court," said Clement, playing in his first Davis Cup final. "It was not easy to start the third set because (we were) two sets down. Mentally it's very, very difficult."

France needs only one more victory to win a 10th Davis Cup, and first since 2001. Only twice since 1981 has the team that won the doubles failed to win the final. France blew a 2-1 lead against Russia in 2002.

"We are leading 2-1, but we still have a far way to go," France captain Guy Forget said.

On Sunday, Novak Djokovic will face Gael Monfils in the first reverse singles. Djokovic has a 5-0 record against Monfils, including a straight-sets win in their last match at the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

Janko Tipsarevic is scheduled to play Gilles Simon in the other singles match. Simon won their only previous match at 2008 Rotterdam in two tiebreakers.

"This is not the first time that we are in this kind of situation," Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic said. "We will not surrender."

Clement lost his serve in both sets the French lost, but the 32-year-old veteran suddenly turned into the best serve-and-volleyer and would hardly be tested again on serve.

Both teams had to ask their fans to be fair, as spectators shouted during serves and rallies in an increasingly noisy and tense atmosphere.

Clement's unreturnable volley into Zimonjic earned the decisive break in the opening game of the third set. In the fourth, Clement's spectacular lob landed on the baseline and triggered the crucial break.

Zimonjic, doubles champion of the French Open and recent ATP Finals, lost his serve in the opening game of the fifth set. The Serbs blew their last two break points in the eighth game before the French wrapped up their comeback after 4 hours, 34 minutes.

Clement and Llodra improved their record in Davis Cup doubles to 8-2.

"During this week, Guy told us, 'Think about something: In France, in front of TV, millions of people are watching, wanting you to win,'" Clement said. "I thought about this during the match today. To win this match for all these people, for the team, it's a fantastic feeling."

Zimonjic was philosophical.

"I think overall we played a good match," he said. "We had maybe six, seven break points that we did not take. That's basically where we lost the match."