LILLE, France (AP) Roger Federer will have the chance to clinch the last big prize in tennis eluding him after putting Switzerland into a 2-1 lead against France in the Davis Cup final on Saturday.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion and Stan Wawrinka swept aside Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the doubles, and Federer can secure the decisive point against Jo-Wilfied Tsonga in the first reverse singles on Sunday.
Federer and Wawrinka, who won doubles gold at the 2008 Olympics, ended a four-game losing streak in Davis Cup at the right time, and posted their first win together in the event in three years. It was also their first doubles win on clay.
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They did not concede a single break and dominated the key points to withstand their opponents’ charge in the second set.
The teams ended the opening singles on Friday level, after Wawrinka defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Federer lost in straight sets to Gael Monfils.
Federer’s prediction that he would play better despite his bad back was right, as he served and moved far better on the clay.
”Stan has been unbelievably supportive, the coaching staff did a really good job,” said Federer, who injured his back last week at the ATP Finals. ”Now I’m going to rest and recover.”
Federer and Wawrinka converted their dominance to break for a 4-2 lead in the first set when Wawrinka unleashed a powerful forehand that Gasquet could hardly touch.
With Federer improving as the match progressed, they sealed the set in just 28 minutes but were offered a tougher challenge in the second. The French returned better yet failed to seize their opportunities as the former Olympic champions saved a total of five break points.
Federer did not look annoyed by his back at all, hitting some acrobatic smashes and stretching for volleys while racing forward and back with ease.
Benetteau saved two break points with two consecutive winners in the ninth game but Gasquet then showed his nerves when he was let down by his serve two games later. The Swiss made no mistake and converted the first one, with Wawrinka firing a forehand down the line that sent the Swiss fans into rapture.
Put on the ropes, the French fended off four break points early in the third set but another stunning forehand passing shot from Wawrinka gave the Swiss the decisive break in the fifth game.
”We came on the court to take that point, we were aggressive, we knew what we had to do, and we did a good job,” said the fourth-ranked Wawrinka. ”We know each other so well.”