France into Davis Cup semis after doubles win vs. Britain

ROUEN, France (AP) France advanced to the Davis Cup semifinals after veterans Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut won a tight doubles to beat Britain 3-0 on Saturday.

Benneteau and Mahut edged Dominic Inglot and Jamie Murray 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-5.

France faces either Serbia or Spain in September.

”It’s really incredible, it gives you goosebumps,” Benneteau said. ”Whether you’ve won 15 Grand Slams or none, playing in front of your country like this is incredible. It’s magical, fabulous.”

Led by Murray’s strong serve, Britain competed far better than it had in Friday’s opening singles, easily won by Lucas Pouille and Jeremy Chardy against Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans.

With the doubles at one set all, a forehand winner down the line from Mahut gave France set point on Murray’s serve. He double-faulted to give France the momentum.

At 5-4 in the third set, and with Britain serving to stay in the match, Mahut somehow returned two big smashes on the first point. But Inglot held serve for 5-5.

In game 12, Benneteau’s forehand down the line made it deuce and brought France to within two points of victory. Then, Mahut’s strong backhand down the line gave match point on Murray’s serve.

After a brief rally, Britain saved it when Benneteau netted.

But a superb lob from the back of the court by Mahut set up a second match point and France took it when Murray’s backhand volley clipped the net and dropped on the wrong side.

Mahut sank to his knees as Benneteau tilted his head back and clenched both fists.

”One year ago I was 700th in the world and lost in the first round of a challenger. At that moment the Davis Cup, playing in front of 5,000 fans alongside my best mate, and in front of my whole family, was a long way away,” Benneteau said.

Mahut ran into the arms of captain Yannick Noah, whose selections were questioned before the match. But Noah’s decision to pick Chardy ahead of the much higher ranked Gilles Simon and pair late-thirtysomethings Mahut and Benneteau paid off.

”Magnifique, magnifique!” Noah shouted as he hugged the players, and the national anthem, ”La Marseillaise,” rang out.

The team then grabbed a giant Tricolor flag and paraded around the Kindarena in Rouen.

”We knew it would be hard for us, but we kept going until the end and did a great job,” Mahut said. ”Two years ago we lost to Britain (in the quarterfinals), even though they had Andy Murray then, and it was a very tough moment for us.”

France has not won the competition since 2001.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, who led Britain to Davis Cup victory in 2015, did not play this time because of an elbow injury and his absence was keenly felt.