Holders the Czech Republic showed how tenaciously they will fight to retain the Davis Cup on Saturday, while five-time champions Spain avoided being knocked out in the first round for the first time since 2006 by winning their doubles rubber against Canada.
Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic won a record-breaking doubles match against Swiss duo Marco Chiudinelli and Stanislas Wawrinka.
Their 7 hour, 2 minute victory, including a 24-22 final set, put the Czech Republic 2-1 ahead in the tie in Geneva, Switzerland, and they needed to win only one of the two singles rubbers yesterday.
The Czech Republic needed 13 match points before Switzerland finally cracked, but for France and Serbia things were far more straightforward as they took unassailable 3-0 leads in their matches against Israel and Belgium respectively. Argentina also clinched a quarter-final berth by taking a 3-0 lead against Germany.
Top seeds Spain, missing top players Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco, gave themselves a chance of joining them after Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez produced a gritty five-set win.
Trailing 2-0 after dropping both singles matches on Friday, Spain overcame Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2 to stay alive in the tie.
However, Spain faced a tough task yesterday, with Canada’s world No. 15 Milos Raonic to play Granollers in the first match of the reverse singles.
The Czech Republic’s Rosol was formerly best known as the man who stunned Nadal at Wimbledon last year, but now he has another claim to fame after Saturday’s epic doubles win with Berdych.
Their 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 24-22 win was achieved despite fierce home support and was sealed by a double fault.
Wawrinka needed to recover his energy to take on Berdych again in yesterday’s first reverse singles.
France’s Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra thrashed Israel’s Dudi Sela and Jonathan Erlich 7-6 (7/3), 6-1, 6-0 in Rouen to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet both comfortably won their singles matches on Friday.
World No. 1 Djokovic was spared more exertion yesterday after 2010 winners Serbia built a 3-0 lead against Belgium when Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic came through in four sets against Steve Darcis and Ruben Bemelmans.
Djokovic, playing his first match since winning the Australian Open for a third consecutive year, crushed Olivier Rochus on Friday.
France face Argentina in the quarter-finals after the South Americans clinched victory with a day to spare against Germany.
David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos delighted the Buenos Aires crowd with a 6-1, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 victory against Christopher Kas and Tobias Kamke.
Kamke stood in for Philipp Kohlschreiber, who retired in the fifth set of Friday’s opening singles against Carlos Berlocq with a pulled hamstring.
Serbia face the US if they complete victory over Brazil, having forged a 2-1 lead.
Elsewhere, Austria kept their tie against Kazakhstan alive as Julian Knowle and Alexander Peya won the doubles to leave the hosts leading 2-1 in Astana, while Italy led Croatia 2-1.
In Asia/Oceania Group 1, Australia completed a 5-0 whitewash of Taiwan yesterday, with Marinko Matosevic beating Chen Ti 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 and Matthew Ebden downing Yang Tsung-hua 6-1, 6-2.
In other ties, Japan completed a 5-0 victory over Indonesia, South Korea defeated India 4-1 and Uzbekistan beat China 4-1.
Additional reporting by staff writer