France takes 2-0 lead on Argentina

BY foxsports • September 17, 2010

Gael Monfils served 27 aces as he extended France's lead over Argentina to 2-0 in their Davis Cup semifinal with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over former No. 3-ranked David Nalbandian on Friday.

Michael Llodra had earlier put the French ahead by defeating Juan Monaco 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Monfils, who is unbeaten in the Davis Cup this year, won six consecutive games in the last set and wrapped up the match on his second match point with a passing shot that Nalbandian failed to control.

Llodra will also feature in Saturday's doubles alongside veteran Arnaud Clement against Argentine pair Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos.

Playing high-risk tennis, Monfils extended his winning record against Nalbandian to 3-1. The defeat marked only the fifth loss in 21 singles matches in the competition for the Argentine.

France, which won the last of its nine Davis Cup titles in 2001, is now favored to reach the final against either Serbia or the Czech Republic.

Monfils broke in the first game when Nalbandian fired a forehand long and went up 2-0 after winning his first service game at love.

Monfils was rewarded with another break in the fifth game as Nalbandian buried a backhand in the net following Monfils' passing shot down the line.

Nalbandian broke in the next game and came back to 4-3 with a strong display at the net on his serve before Monfils served out the set with three consecutive winners - two aces and a winning forehand volley.

Monfils committed more unforced errors in the second set and was pinned behind the baseline, with Nalbandian seizing the opportunity to break the Frenchman in the fourth game with a winning return.

Nalbandian maintained his edge with a lethal combination of clever drop shots and fine attacking play before breaking Monfils at love to take the second set.

But the Argentine lost his focus in the third set and was broken in the third game after completely missing a backhand volley.

Monfils improved his serve in the third set and went 5-3 up with two consecutive aces before serving out the set at love.

Monfils failed to maintain momentum and lost his serve following three unforced errors. The Frenchman then trailed 3-0 in the fourth set but Nalbandian failed to extend his dominance as he served a double fault and sent a forehand wide to put his opponent back in the match.

Nalbandian, who missed most of last year because of hip surgery, lacked stamina in the fourth set, winning just seven points on his opponent's serve.

Earlier, the left-handed Llodra made the most of his big serve on the indoor hard court of the Palais des Sports and served 18 aces in a win over Monaco that lasted 3 hours and 22 minutes.

Llodra converted only four of his 12 break points but won 88 percent of the points played on his first serve. Llodra - who was pivotal in France's 5-0 thrashing of defending champion Spain in the quarterfinals - had 98 winners and closed out the match with an ace.

"My tenacity and my willpower made the difference today," Llodra said. "The atmosphere was crazy. But it's not over yet. I will have to play a great doubles tomorrow."

Llodra struggled with his first serve in the first set and did not produce his first ace until the 11th game to go up 6-5. He broke Monaco to close out the set with a forehand down the line after the Argentine doublefaulted again and sent a backhand wide.

"I was really nervous in the beginning," Llodra said. "I struggled on my first serve, but I kept my focus and I didn't get mad."

Llodra complained to the chair umpire about the Argentina fans' noisy attitude after serving a double fault in the fifth game of the second set to hand Monaco a break point. Monaco didn't falter and broke his opponent with a winning return on the next point.

Llodra saved a break point in the first game of the third set but won 20 of the 21 points played on his first serve during that set despite twisting his right ankle toward the end.

"He played very good in the third set, he took a lot of risks and it carried some weight in the result," Monaco said. "I knew he was going to play an attacking tennis, but he played a very good game today and he deserved to win. I gave everything I had from the beginning."

Llodra made the decisive break in the eighth game of the fourth set with a cross court passing shot winner.

France holds an unbeaten record against Argentina. The countries faced each other four times, with their most recent tie in 1982 in Buenos Aires.

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