Argentina are in the Davis Cup World Group semi-finals after their world No. 71 Carlos Berlocq beat 13th-ranked Frenchman Gilles Simon to hand the South Americans a 3-2 win on Sunday.
A distraught Simon, who saved five match points before finally succumbing, said it was the lowest point of his tennis career.
“By a long way, that was the most difficult defeat to accept of my entire career,” Simon said. “What disappointment, it was a very important match for everyone. I had to win it, but didn’t. I did the best I could. All I wanted to do was win — for me, for the others, for Jo [Tsonga], who didn’t deserve to lose after winning two matches.”
Argentina face defending champions the Czech Republic in the semis after they eliminated Kazakhstan earlier in the day. Serbia and semi-final newcomers Canada also won their quarter-finals on Sunday.
Berlocq said he did not want to let down his family, friends and teammates, who were pulling for an Argentina victory at the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires.
“When you are in your own country, with everyone around, your family, your friends, who have confidence in you, their confidence is contagious,” he said. “All the team believed victory was possible. It was a battle, fortunately we won it.”
France had leveled the tie earlier after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga dismantled Juan Monaco 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in 1 hour, 42 minutes to force a deciding rubber.
Against the odds, that went to Berlocq, who fought back to prevail 6-4, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 against Simon, who was called in late to replace Richard Gasquet.
World No. 1 and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic’s victory over Sam Querrey of the US advanced Serbia to the semi-finals.
Djokovic, who had to battle through an ankle injury he suffered in the opening set, earned a 7-5, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-0 win to give Serbia an insurmountable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five tie.
It is the second win for Serbia in four years over the 32-time winners the US. In their only other previous Davis Cup encounter Serbia defeated the US in Belgrade in 2010.
“I am sorry for team USA, but it was a thrilling weekend for all of us,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic had to play through the pain of a bad right ankle, which he sprained in the third game of the opening set.
“I took some anti-inflammatories and they kicked in at the end of the second set,” he said.
Djokovic said he probably would not have finished the match if it was not the Davis Cup.
“If I wasn’t playing for Serbia and didn’t have my team watching me, I don’t know if I would have continued,” he said.
The 25-year-old clinched the victory over Querrey with a backhand winner, ending the 2 hour, 35 minute match.
Serbia next meet Canada after Milos Raonic sent the Canucks to their first-ever semi-final by beating Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
The 22-year-old Raonic overpowered Seppi with his booming serve, before Seppi stepped up and won the third set in Vancouver, but Raonic rebounded to win the fourth, finishing the match with 35 aces to complete the historic win for the hosts, who travel to Serbia for the semi-finals in September.
Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic put the defending champions into the semi-finals with a tough win over Kazakhstan’s Evgeny Korolev in Astana.
Rosol, who is 63rd in the ATP rankings, won 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in his first ever head-to-head meeting with the 25-year-old Korolev to give his team an unassailable 3-1 lead in the tie.