VILLENEUVE-D’ASCQ, France – The French duo of Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert defeated Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans and Joris de Loore 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 on Saturday to give their team a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup final.
That critical doubles victory leaves France one win away from moving into a tie with Great Britain for the third-most titles in tennis’ premier international team competition, behind only the United States (32) and Australia (28).
Although Gasquet and Hebert had not played together before Saturday’s match, Captain Yannick Noah teamed them up in a bold decision that paid big dividends.
Bemelmans and de Loore, meanwhile, had played more than a score of doubles matches as a duo.
Gasquet and Herbert came storming out of the blocks in Saturday’s match, played at Stade Pierre Mauroy in the northern city of Villeneuve-d’Ascq, clinching the first set without facing a break point.
The Belgian duo fought back, winning the second set by going two-for-three on break-point opportunities and only dropping serve once.
The key turning point of the match came in the third set, when Bemelmans and De Loore were only able to convert one of their seven break-point chances. The French duo, meanwhile, made the most of their lone break-point opportunity of the set and then routed their rivals in the tiebreak.
In the fourth set, one break of serve was all the French pair needed to seal the win after three hours and three minutes of play.
The action will continue on Sunday, with French world No. 15 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga taking on Belgian world No. 7 David Goffin in the fourth rubber.
If Goffin can keep Belgium alive, that would set up a winner-take-all contest pitting France’s Lucas Pouille against Belgian Steve Darcis.
Belgium, the Davis Cup runner-up in 1904 and 2015, is seeking its first title.