Cape Town – Hosts France gave their fans something to cheer about when they won Saturday’s marathon doubles contest to keep the Davis Cup final alive.
Croatia had put one hand firmly on the trophy when they both of Friday’s singles matches to take a valuable 2-0 lead in the best-of-five tie.
Marin Cilic beat injury-hit Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, while Jeremy Chardy, a surprise selection by France captain Yannick Noah instead of Lucas Pouille, fell 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 to Borna Coric.
That left France needing to win Saturday’s doubles match in order to keep the tie alive, and thankfully for them, French Open doubles champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut delivered – despite a mid-match wobble.
The French duo seemed to be crusing against Croatian duo Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig, two sets and a break up, only to come unstuck late in the third set.
Seemingly from nowhere, Pavic and Dodig grabbed two successive breaks to turn the tables on their opponents and force a fourth set.
Now under pressure, Herbert and Mahut had to save three more break points at the start of the fourth, and then did themselves no favours when they wasted three match points at 4-5, allowing Pavic and Dodig to fight back from 0-40 down.
But the French pair did not let their heads drop, earning three more match points after bossing the ensuing tie-break to finally clinch a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3) victory after three hours and 42 minutes.
The victory ensures France live to fight another day, although Croatia will still back themselves to clinch their second Davis Cup crown when Cilic faces Chardy in the first of the reverse singles matches on Sunday.
Should Chardy somehow upset Cilic, it will all come down to the final match between Tsonga and Coric.