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France Lead Argentina 2-0 In Davis Cup

France held a commanding 2-0 lead over Argentina in their Davis Cup semi-final meeting after Friday's (September 17th) opening singles matches in Lyon.  Michael Llodra defeated Juan Monaco 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the first
PTI September 18, 2010 16:05 IST
PTI
France held a commanding 2-0 lead over Argentina in their Davis Cup semi-final meeting after Friday's (September 17th) opening singles matches in Lyon. 

Michael Llodra defeated Juan Monaco 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the first rubber before Gael Monfils beat David Nalbandian 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 to take France to the verge of their first Davis Cup final since 2001.

A place in the Davis Cup final was up for grabs as France hosted Argentina in Lyon - a tie in which the visitors will be well supported by a vociferous crowd of travelling fans. 

Friday's opening singles rubber pitted France's Michael Llodra against Juan Monaco of Argentina .  Monaco broke Llodra's serve in only the third game of the match, but the world number 30 was back on level terms after breaking back in the eighth game. 

Serving to stay in the set, Monaco found himself two break points down and Llodra converted the first with a measured forehand down the line.

Monaco bounced back in the second set though, breaking for a 3-2 lead before serving out the set 6-4 with a passing forehand as Llodra attacked the net. 

Having restored parity, Monaco was back under pressure in the closing games of the third set.  Llodra squandered two set points against the Monaco serve in the tenth game, but he would battle his way to three more break points two games later.  Having saved the first two, Monaco's resistance finally crumbled as Llodra belted a brilliant backhand that his opponent couldn't keep in play and the Frenchman took the set 7-5. 

Llodra was clearly in the ascendancy, rattling through his service games before heaping pressure on the Monaco serve.  A fine cross-court backhand from the baseline gave Llodra a deserved break for a 5-3 lead....  And he sealed a 1-0 lead in the tie minutes later, firing an ace past Monaco to complete a 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory - much to the delight of team captain Guy Forget.

The day's second singles rubber pitted Gael Monfils against David Nalbandian - the Argentine number one.  Monfils made a dream start with a break of Nalbandian's serve in the first game. 

The world number 15 broke again for a 4-1 lead, only to let Nalbandian back into the set by conceding a break in the next game.  Monfils battled his way to set point ough and wrapped it up 6-4 with a cross-court forehand volley. 

The Frenchman failed to convert a break point at the start of the second set and Nalbandian punished the missed opportunity in the fourth game, breaking for a 3-1 lead. 

Nalbandian brought up three more break points in the eight game and he pulled level with the first of them, taking the second set 6-2.  Momentum swung back in favour of France though as Monfils maintained the advantage of an early break in the third set and went on to serve it out 6-4.

 However, Nalbandian looked capable of taking the match the distance as he broke in the first game of the fourth set, giving the travelling Argentine army of fans plenty to cheer. 

Falling behind appeared to bring out the best in Monfils though and he broke Nalbandian in each of his next three service games.  Trailing 5-3 in the set, 40-30 in the game and serving to stay in the match, Nalbandian desperately attacked the net.  But Monfils forced a mistake from the Argentine and that was enough to seal a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

France can seal victory in the tie, and their place in the Davis Cup final for the first time since 2001, by winning Saturday's (September 18th) doubles rubber. 

Should they fail, they will still only need one win from Sunday's (September 19th) reverse singles.  AP