Serbia, France trail 2-1 in Davis Cup semifinals

Associated Press
France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reacts during his doubles tennis match against Spanish players Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, in the Davis Cup semi-final between Spain and France in the bullring in Cordoba, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. France won the doubles 6-1, 6-2, 6-0. (AP Photo/Sergio Torres)
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Serbia and France won doubles matches Saturday to stay alive in the Davis Cup semifinals after being swept in the opening singles.

Defending champion Serbia is hoping U.S. Open winner Novak Djokovic will be healthy enough to help complete a comeback against Argentina in reverse singles Sunday. Rafael Nadal will try to send Spain to victory over France.

Spain and Argentina were in command in Friday's opening round, but neither came close to winning the doubles. Each leads 2-1 entering Sunday's conclusion to the best-of-five series.

France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra routed Spain's Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-2, 6-0. Serbia's Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki beat Juan Ignacio Chela and Juan Monaco 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-2.

Nadal's mastery on clay means Spain remains the favorite at Cordoba's bullring. But Argentina could face bigger problems if Djokovic can play in the first singles against Juan Martin del Potro.

The top-ranked Djokovic led Serbia to its first Davis Cup title last year after beating France 3-2 in the final. He skipped Friday's match because of lingering back pain following his win over Nadal in the U.S. Open final Monday. However, he trained at Belgrade Arena immediately after the doubles victory and is expected to be available.

"If Novak plays, I fancy our chances," Zimonjic said.

Zimonjic and Troicki trailed 4-1 in the second set Saturday, but won eight consecutive games to cruise to victory with two breaks in the third set.

"It was a must-win situation and we played well under the pressure," Zimonjic said.

In the second singles Sunday, U.S. Open quarterfinalist Janko Tipsarevic is expected to face David Nalbandian. Tipsarevic was beaten by Del Potro on Friday.

"Tomorrow will be difficult two matches, knowing Djokovic will play," Argentina captain Tito Vazquez said.

Spain endured its worst loss in a Davis Cup doubles match, with Tsonga and Llodra wrapping up the match in 99 minutes.

Tsonga was so pleased with his performance he immediately lobbied France captain Guy Forget to let him take Gilles Simon's place against Nadal in the reverse singles.

"If he picks me that would be fantastic," Tsonga said, with Forget seated beside him. "I am motivated to go and play if I get picked. If I play I am sure I will certainly play against Rafa in this incredible environment and on the clay. I would really like that."

Nadal has complained of fatigue after the U.S. Open, but is undefeated in Davis Cup singles matches since losing in his debut in 2004. His 17-1 record includes 13 victories on clay. The six-time French Open champion has lost only five of his last 100 matches on clay.

"Nadal is feeling better, he's training better and I think he'll be in top shape tomorrow," Spain captain Albert Costa said. "(Tsonga) is one of the best players in the world, very dangerous. But I think Rafa will be even better tomorrow than Friday."

In Davis Cup playoffs, Roger Federer's Switzerland trails Australia 2-1 and is on the brink of missing out on a spot in next year's World Group. Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione defeated Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (5) in doubles. Federer will play teenager Bernard Tomic on Sunday, with Hewitt to follow against Wawrinka.

In other playoffs, the Czech Republic and Italy secured spots in the World Group. The Czechs took an unassailable 3-0 lead over Romania. The Italians lead Chile by the same score.

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