VILLENEUVE-D’ASCQ, France: Davis Cup defending champions Spain took an unassailable 3-0 semi-final lead over Spain on Saturday when Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau beat Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) in the third of five rubbers on the Lille hardcourt. Four-time champions France, captained by 1983 French Open winner Yannick Noah, will meet either Croatia or the United States in the final in late November. Davis Cup rookie Benoit Paire gave France a winning start on Friday when the bearded 29-year-old enjoyed what he termed “a dream” 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Pablo Carreno Busta.
Lucas Pouille’s nerve-jangling five-set victory — 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 — over Roberto Bautista-Agut in the following match made it 2-0.
Croatia could clinch their final ticket in Saturday’s doubles in which Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic will face Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison.
Some fans in the Lille stadium where France hosted Spain wore black t-shirts as a form of ‘mourning’ as the Davis Cup is in its final year before becoming the Tennis World Cup, with a large banner unfurled reading “Change it Back”.
Japan bounce Bosnians in Davis Cup: Japan preserved their status in the Davis Cup’s top tier on Saturday by powering to doubles victory in their World Group playoff against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the absence of Japanese talisman Kei Nishikori, the home side took an unassailable 3-0 lead in Osaka after Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama thrashed Tomislav Brkic and Nerman Fatic 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Japan, beaten 3-1 at home by Italy in the World Group first round in February, completed a fourth consecutive playoff success to extend their five-year stay at the Davis Cup’s top table. After Naomi Osaka’s stunning US Open victory over Serena Williams last weekend, it was McLachlan’s turn to shine a light on Japan’s mixed-race athletes.
The 26-year-old, who was born in New Zealand but whose mother is Japanese, fired down several huge serves at key moments — not least to secure the first and second sets.
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