Nicolas Mahut and Julian Benneteau secured a four set win over Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot 7-6(7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead in their Davis Cup World Group quarterfinal tie with Great Britain.
* Article originally published by me for UBITennis.net *
The doubles rubber was a hotly contested affair and both teams had their chances. Great Britain squandered four set points in the first set before making sure they took their chances in the second. Murray/Inglot looked in control leading 4-2 in the third set but Mahut/Benneteau responded magnificently, winning five of the next six games to move two sets to one in front. The fourth set was equally as close, but when it looked destined to go to a tiebreak Mahut stepped up and helped inspire a crucial break of serve for the French pair to wrap up the win and book France’s place in the semifinals against Serbia.
Heading into the third rubber the pressure was very much on the British pair of Murray/Inglot to get the win, as the 2015 champions found themselves 2-0 down after day one. Straight set victories for Lucas Pouille over Kyle Edmund and for Jeremy Chardy over Dan Evans left Mahut/Benneteau with the chance to book France’s place in the semifinals. Both sides boasted a good recent record as partnerships, with the French pair wining the ATP title in Marseille in February and the British pair winning both their previous doubles rubbers together in the Davis Cup against Canada and Serbia. All four players quality made a for a really tough battle and a highly engaging contest.
All four players served very impressively at the beginning of the match and neither side looked like they were going to be broken in the opening eleven games of the match. That pattern looked set to continue when France were serving to stay in the set down 6-5 as the team led 40-0. However, two double faults in the next three points brought us to deuce for the first time in the match. Murray/Inglot applied the pressure and managed to bring up a set point on three occasions for Great Britain. The French pairing of Mahut/Benneteau saved the first two with high quality play but the Brits had a an excellent chance on the third opportunity. Inglot had his sights set on ripping a backhand at the two onrushing French players but his one handed backhand hit the net. The chances went begging and France held to force a tiebreak.
Great Britain took command early on and moved 4-1 in front. But, as Pouille had done against Edmund in their singles match yesterday from a similar position, the French pair turned it around and brought up a set point of their own at 6-5. The French pair thought they had secured the set after Mahut hit a cross court backhand return of serve winner, but it missed the outside edge of the line by an inch. A huge serve from Inglot brought Great Britain a fourth set point, but once again Inglot/Murray could not capitalise. When the French pair got a second chance they did not hesitate as the former number one doubles player in the world Mahut struck a volley at Inglot, who could not reply, sealing the first set for France in the breaker 9-7.
Once again in the second set opportunities to break serve were at a premium as all four players impressed when stepping up to the line. In the eleventh game a double fault from Benneteau pushed the French pair back to deuce before the Brits stepped up and earned a first break point in the set. Having squandered three opportunities in set number one, the visiting side made no mistake this time as Inglot struck a lob winner to take a 6-5 lead. Murray had only lost four points throughout the whole match on serve and kept that form going, closing out the set with an unreturned serve to level the match at one set all.
Having looked so strong on serve throughout the match, the Brits came under the most intensive pressure to date in the fourth game of the third set. Inglot’s first serve had deserted him and as a result the pair found themselves 15-40 down. The Brits responded and battled to save both break points with overhead smash put-aways. They then squandered a chance to hold but eventually made it out of the game to level the scores at 2-2.
That escape for the Brits proved to be a turning point as Inglot/Murray responded to break Mahut’s serve for the first time in the match. The game was highly competitive and saw plenty of chances for the French pair to hold pass them by. A lob from Inglot brought up game point and an exceptional reflex volley from Murray secured the break and a 3-2 lead. Great Britain were not out of the woods yet as Inglot came under further pressure on serve down two break points. Yet once again the Brit stepped up when it mattered most, firing down four big first serves to secure the hold and remain in front.
The Brits could not keep getting themselves in danger on serve and keep escaping and this came back to bite them in the eighth game. A one-two combination off Murray’s serve and Inglot’s volley winner saved one break point, but the French pair took a second chance, seeing the Brits drop serve for the first time in the match after two hours and 18 minutes of play. Mahut held to love to move the home team 5-4 in front, asking the question, but Inglot responded with love hold of his own to level the scores once more.
In the twelfth game, with Great Britain serving to stay in the third set, the French team stepped up and moved to two set points. After a tentative volley from Inglot, Mahut had the chance to win the point but missed his forehand cross court just wide. The Brits then saved a second with a good first serve from Murray and swiftly moved to game point. Mahut hit a bullet forehand at Inglot to force the score back to deuce before he struck another superb forehand down the line winner to bring up a third set point. A very untimely double fault from the Scot ended the set on a very disappointing note for Great Britain as they found themselves two sets to one down.
The fourth set was equally as competitive and looked as though it was destined for another tiebreak as the British pair brought up two game points on Murray’s serve. After those two chances went begging the French team sensed that now was the moment to secure victory. Mahut produced some fine shot making to bring up a first match point. The Brits saved that one but Mahut was relentless with his fierce groundstrokes. Determined to seal the tie, the Wimbledon men’s doubles champion played a huge part in taking the next two points to seal a fantastic win for France 7-6(7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-5. Of course that win secured an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie for France over Great Britain, meaning that tomorrow’s two singles matches will be dead rubbers.