Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka beat French doubles pair Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet on Saturday to give Switzerland a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup final.
Federer looked comfortable on the indoor clay court in Lille and showed no signs of his recent back problem as the Swiss won 6-3 7-5 6-4.
The 33-year-old had lost his singles match to Gael Monfils on Friday, but was relieved to have come through today's contest unscathed: "Clearly it's a big relief. The medical staff, it's a big thanks to them."
There are two singles matches to play on Sunday, which will decide this year's decider.
Federer is likely to take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Wawrinka face Monfils as the Swiss look win their maiden Davis Cup title.
Gael Monfils jumps for a smash (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Stan Wawrinka got the tie off to a bright start for Switzerland when he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets on Friday, showing the advantage of his match-fitness after the World Tour Finals with a muscular and assertive performance. 'I showed them I'm not no. 4 for nothing,' the Swiss no. 2 said after his 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over a dejected Tsonga.
But France struck back as Gael Monfils pulled off a sensational straight-sets victory over Roger Federer, who said that he struggled to play on clay after little practice on it, falling to Monfils 1-6, 4-6, 3-6 in front of a delighted home crowd.
Build-up to the tie
With the ATP World Tour season all wrapped up and put to bed and six weeks or so before the new season begins, all eyes are on the Davis Cup final as it brings the year-long international competition to a thrilling climax.
France hosts Switzerland on the indoors clay of the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, a stunning venue capable of seating 17,000, as the Tsonga-Monfils-Gasquet generation try to prove themselves as the ‘new musketeers’ while Roger Federer, supported by Stan Wawrinka, goes after one of the very few prizes that has eluded him in his glittering career – a Davis Cup.
Swiss captain Severin Luthi and Stan Wawrinka carry Roger Federer on their shoulders after he sealed Switzerland's place in the Davis Cup final (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Played each year, with rounds scheduled at intervals throughout the tennis season, the Davis Cup pits nation against nation in a battle for tennis supremacy. The Davis Cup began in 1900 as a contest between Great Britain and the USA, and is now the world’s biggest international annual team competition in sport, with 122 nations taking part in 2014.
The cream of the competition is the 16-nation ‘World Group’, which sees the world’s elite 16 countries compete against each other in the Davis Cup’s unique rubber/tie format. The first round is held after the Australian Open in early February, with eight nations progressing to the quarterfinals (early April, before the clay season). The semifinals follow the US Open in mid-September with the finals bringing the season to a sensational climax in late November.
Sixteen nations began the World Group in 2014 and 14 have fallen by the wayside, leaving just France and Switzerland to battle it out in what promises to be a thrilling final.
France: The New Musketeers?
Ever since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet came up through the ranks, France has been looking to this talented trio – not to mention the likes of Gilles Simon and Julien Benneteau – for glory.
The French team - Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon and Arnaud Clement - pose ahead of an intensive training retreat (JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images)
With all four nominated players inside the world’s top 30, only Spain has more strength in depth and in their third final this century – France lost to Russia in 2002 and Serbia in 2010 – their nation hopes beyond hope that this talented generation will finally leverage their potential into a Davis Cup trophy.
Up against one of the greatest of all time in Roger Federer, France will hope to target Swiss no. 2 Stan Wawrinka and must win the doubles point if they are to swing the final their way.
Switzerland: Two-Man Army
There may be four players nominated for Switzerland as they play their first Davis Cup final since 1992, but let’s be realistic: The team that matters consists of two men, 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, himself a Grand Slam champion after an unexpected triumph at the Australian Open in 2014.
Stan Wawrinka, backed by Severin Luthi and Roger Federer, speaks to the media (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Federer committed himself to playing a full Davis Cup schedule for once not long after Wawrinka’s win and the 33-year-old Swiss must surely have his sights set on bringing home one of the very few prizes to have eluded him in his career so far.
The Swiss no. 1 has been on stellar form this year, especially towards the end of the season, while Wawrinka has been erratic, veering from brilliant to woeful. But late concerns of an injury to Federer’s back, sustained ironically in a match against Wawrinka at the World Tour Finals, could be the fly in the Swiss ointment.
* The Davis Cup final begins in Lille on Friday 21 November with the first two singles matches, followed by the doubles on Saturday and the reverse and potentially decisive singles on Sunday – and all matches are available to watch online.
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