Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Davis Cup semi-finals locked in

FORGOTTEN:France had their eye on returning to the finals in Guy Forget’s last year at the helm, but big-hitting John Isner of the US had different plans

AFP, PARIS

The Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych hits a return to Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic during their Davis Cup quarter-final match in Prague on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

The US take on Spain, while Argentina will face the Czech Republic in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup later this year, after they overcame France, Austria, Croatia and Serbia in their quarter-finals on Sunday.

In Monte Carlo, John Isner beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-3, while in Oropesa del Mar, Spain, David Ferrer won in straight sets against Jurgen Melzer 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to put both matches beyond doubt.

In Prague, the Czech Republic made amends for their 2010 semi-final defeat, after Tomas Berdych, the world No. 7, beat eighth-ranked Janko Tipsarevic 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (9/7).

They will now face Argentina away, after Juan Martin del Potro’s emphatic 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 victory against Marin Cilic put the match in Buenos Aires beyond Croatia’s reach.

The semi-final clashes will take place in September.

France’s defeat robbed Guy Forget of taking his team to the finals for the fifth and final time since he was appointed in 1999. He now steps down after contesting 14 Davis Cups. His replacement will be announced later this year, officials said.

An emotional Forget told the crowd at the Monte Carlo Country Club of his time in the job: “It’s been long, but it’s been fantastic. Thanks to you and because of my friends, it’s been the best time of my life.”

Under his watch, France have made it to four Davis Cup finals and won once, in 2001.

France had high hopes this year of winning their 10th Davis Cup after they were drawn at home to most of their main rivals and top players, such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who was in the stands on Sunday, decided to sit out the tournament.

However, they were tripped up by a strong US team who had previously beaten Switzerland, including former world No. 1 Roger Federer, with Isner winning plaudits for overcoming an out-of-sorts Tsonga.

Their match against Spain is a re-run of last year’s quarter-final and US team captain Jim Courier is relishing the prospect, despite another tricky away match.

“My team is comfortable on any surface, including clay. Now we’re going to Spain for the semi-finals. We’ve really had the worst draw you could imagine since the start of the campaign,” he said. “On paper, we should lose to Spain, but you don’t play on paper and we’ll give our all once again.”

In Spain, world No. 5 Ferrer won a fiercely contested first set and broke 21st-ranked Melzer in his first service game of the second set as he produced several sizzling returns.

However, Melzer showed his mettle in breaking back to trail 4-3, but Ferrer replied brilliantly to break the Austrian’s serve immediately and then serve out for the set.

The duo shared the first six games of the third set before Ferrer wore down his opponent to break him and then held serve, going on to seal the match on the Austrian’s serve after Melzer had saved two match points.

In Prague, Berdych’s defeat of Tipsarevic gave the visitors an unassailable 3-1 lead after Saturday’s doubles rubber, which saw Berdych and Radek Stepanek beat Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) for a 2-1 lead.

Argentina, finalists four times in the past five years, set up another tilt at the title as 2009 US Open champion Del Potro powered his way past Cilic, making the result of the final singles between David Nalbandian and Ivo Karlovic academic.

Nalbandian had helped to lay the foundation for the win in partnering Eduardo Schwank for a doubles success over Cilic and Karlovic in five tight sets.

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