Paris – France captain Yannick Noah said he “deserved a beer” to celebrate his defending Davis Cup champions’ seamless progress past Spain and into their second successive final on Saturday.
Who France will face in November will be determined on Sunday, with the United States winning their doubles against Croatia to trail 2-1 ahead of the closing two rubbers in the other semi-final in Zadar.
Veteran duo Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut secured France’s decisive win, beating Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7).
That gave the French an unassailable 3-0 lead, making Sunday’s two reverse singles academic.
“This is the best tennis I’ve seen from my team in three years,” beamed 1983 French Open winner Noah.
“I didn’t have a beer for a week — I deserve my beer!”
Noah was full of praise for his victorious doubles duo.
“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.”
Benneteau had come out of retirement to serve his country on the hardcourt in Lille.
“It’s quite possible it could be the last match of my career on tour,” Benneteau said.
“And what a way to finish!”
But there seems every chance he will figure in next month’s climax to a competition that from next year becomes the Tennis World Cup.
Some fans in Lille wore black t-shirts as a form of ‘mourning’ at the passing of the Davis Cup in its present format.
A large banner was unfurled reading “Change it Back”.
France were left in command of the tie after wins in both of Friday’s opening singles.
Davis Cup rookie Benoit Paire gave the 10-time winners the perfect start with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Pablo Carreno Busta.
Then Lucas Pouille’s nerve-jangling five-set victory — 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 — over Roberto Bautista-Agut made it 2-0.
Croatia also led 2-0 going into Saturday’s doubles.
In the opening rubber Borna Coric, world number 18, had justified his favourite’s tag and defeated Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Croatia’s top player and world number six Marin Cilic then defeated Frances Tiafoe, a Davis Cup debutant, 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) to leave the hosts on the brink of the final.
But the 2005 champions still have work to do to seal their third final appearance after the USA’s Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison won a deciding-set tie-break to end a thrilling comeback from Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic with a 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 1-6, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5) victory after four hours and 43 minutes.
Croatia captain Zeljko Krajan is still confident that his team will secure victory in Sunday’s first match which sees Cilic face Steve Johnson.
“Cilic is a big favourite… it will definitely not be easy to defeat him in front of a home crowd,” Krajan told television channel HRT.
If Johnson causes an upset against Cilic, Coric will play against Tiafoe in a deciding rubber.