Herbert and Mahut fire France into the Davis cup quarter finals
Respectively ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, the formidable French aces proved too strong for Japan’s Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama, winning 63 64 64, to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead with two singles rubbers to come on Sunday.
They will face Canada or Great Britain in the last eight of the World Group, in April.
Played at a fast and furious pace, the match had almost passed by the Japanese before they broke for the only time when Herbert was serving for the match at 5-2 in the third set.
Uchiyama then held to give the vociferous home fans something to cheer in Ariake Colloseum, before Mahut silenced them with a hold to love to make Sunday’s rubbers irrelevant.
It completed a rapid-fire victory for the French, following singles successes on Friday for Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon over Taro Daniel and Yoshihito Nishioka respectively, and meant that Japan did not even win a set across the three live rubbers.
“Sugita was playing his points really fast, but it’s also doubles and the points are quick and reflexive — you don’t need so much time to recover between points,” said Herbert.
For his part, Mahut didn’t feel able to relax too much, even after France had won both the opening singles.
“In Davis Cup, it’s always better to play 2-0 up, but doubles is the middle of the weekend and if you lose, then the other guys have to come back and finish the job ion Sunday. You're always under pressure when the doubles is on Saturday,” he said.
Uchiyama felt the difference on the day was experience.
“They’ve played together a long time and know each other very well. If they are in trouble they have a lot of options to win a point. We have to play more tournaments together and know each other better,” he said.
France team captain Yannick Noah was in high spirits after the victory.
“What I like is the involvement of the whole team, starting a couple of weeks ago,” he said.
“Some of them stayed over in Australia to be ready for this tie, that was good, when nowadays we’re often talking about people not wanting to show up to represent their country. So when i see some of my players willing to spend all this time — they’ve been away since before Christmas — that was very positive in terms of spirit, and of course that led to the fact that they were prepared and serious, and didn’t ease up when we found Kei Nishikori wasn’t playing, and here we are 3-0.”
His opposite number, Minoru Ueda, said: “Honestly speaking, the French team was very strong. Of course they made some errors, but there was no room for us to find a crack in any player, or the team. I think my players did their best at their maximum capacity.”
Japan, had earned their place in this year’s World Group with a 5-0 play-off defeat of Ukraine in Osaka, last September.
But without world No.5 Kei Nishikori, absent due to what he termed a “packed schedule”, they were simply outclassed by the French, even though they were without their two highest-ranked players, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Noah omitted world No. 9 Monfils after a falling out over the player’s previous lack of commitment to Davis Cup, while 14th-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was granted leave for family reasons.
With such strength in depth, the French — ranked fourth for this year’s competition, and semifinalists in 2014 and 2010 — will fancy their chances of going deep in this year’s event.
Sunday’s action sees the reverse singles, with Gasquet slated to play Nishioka, and Daniel up against Simon.
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