Serbia, France set up Davis Cup semifinal clash

Serbia and France set up a Davis Cup semifinal showdown on Saturday while 32-time winner United States and Italy, which stunned defending champion Argentina in the first round, stayed alive with marathon wins.

Serbia's Nenad Zimonjic (right) and Viktor Troicki celebrate their victory on Saturday.   -  AFP

Serbia and France set up a Davis Cup semifinal showdown on Saturday while 32-time winner United States and Italy, which stunned defending champion Argentina in the first round, stayed alive with marathon wins. In Belgrade, Serbia's Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic defeated Pablo Carreno-Busta and Marc Lopez 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 to seal victory over Spain while, in Rouen, France also took an unassailable 3-0 lead against Great Britain.

France, the nine-time champion, will host 2010 winner Serbia in the semifinals in September. However, the identity of the other semifinalists will not be known until Sunday after the United States pulled back to 2-1 down against Australia in Brisbane while Italy battled to trail Belgium 2-1 at Charleroi.

Novak Djokovic and Troicki had won Friday's singles to give Serbia a 2-0 lead over Spain before the host took an unassailable advantage on Saturday against the five-time champion which was missing 14-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal. Victory gave 40-year-old playing-captain Zimonjic, who has not missed a Davis Cup tie for a decade, a 30th win in the tournament.

"He had pressure, he put himself into play and did a great job," said Troicki, who along with Djokovic and Zimonjic played in the Serbia team which defeated France in the 2010 final. France reached its fifth semifinal in eight years when Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau defeated Britain's Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot 7-6 (9/7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-5.

The win in the doubles followed Lucas Pouille and Jeremy Chardy taking the opening singles on Friday as Britain suffered in the injury-enforced absence of World No. 1 Andy Murray. Mahut and Benneteau, both 35, have played more than 200 matches together in their careers.

That experience proved crucial for a home side who went into the quarterfinal without their leading singles players, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet.

‘Damn sight better’

"We had a great weekend, it gave me goosebumps," said France captain Yannick Noah.

Britain team captain Leon Smith defended his team which was champion in 2015 when Murray starred. "Of course, we lack depth, that's pretty bloody obvious," said Smith. "But it's a damn sight better than it used to be. France are a very good team. We knew it would be a difficult tie, that's the nature of the tournament. But we have retained our World Group status and that has to be a positive."

In Brisbane, Steve Johnson and Jack Sock kept American hopes alive with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Australia's John Peers and Sam Groth. The win sets up an intriguing final day, with Nick Kyrgios getting the chance to win over the Australian public when he takes on Sock in the first of the reverse singles.

Kyrgios was in sublime form when he downed John Isner on Friday to give Australia a 2-0 lead. "Nick's got a lot of self belief - it's going to take one hell of a performance to beat him," said Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt.

In Charleroi, Italy's Andreas Seppi and Simone Bolelli saved a match point to see off Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6). Belgium, the runners-up in 2015, had taken a 2-0 lead on Friday when Steve Darcis and David Goffin claimed the opening singles. "It's tough but these kind of intense matches are the charm of the Davis Cup," said Belgium captain Johan Van Hercke.

In Sunday's reverse singles, Goffin will face Paolo Lorenzi while Darcis takes on Seppi.

Davis Cup quarterfinal results this weekend:

Belgium 2 Italy 1

Friday

Steve Darcis (BEL) bt Paolo Lorenzi 6-7 (3/7), 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4)

David Goffin (BEL) bt Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-4, 6-3, 6-3

Saturday

Andreas Seppi/Simone Bolelli (ITA) bt Ruben Bemelmans/Joris De Loore (BEL) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6)

At Brisbane (hard court, outdoors)

Australia 2 USA 1

Friday

Jordan Thompson (AUS) bt Jack Sock (USA) 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4

Nick Kyrgios (AUS) bt John Isner (USA) 7-5, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5)

Saturday

Steve Johnson/Jack Sock (USA) bt Sam Groth/John Peers (AUS) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3

France 3 Great Britain 0

Friday

Lucas Pouille (FRA) bt Kyle Edmund (GBR) 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3

Jeremy Chardy (FRA) bt Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-2, 6-3, 6-3

Saturday

Nicolas Mahut/Julien Benneteau (FRA) bt Jamie Murray/Dominic Inglot (GBR) 7-6 (9/7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-5

At Belgrade (hard court, indoors)

Serbia 3 Spain 0

Friday

Novak Djokovic (SRB) bt Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 6-3, 6-4, 6-2

Viktor Troicki (SRB) bt Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3

Saturday

Nenad Zimonjic/Viktor Troicki (SRB) bt Marc Lopez/Pablo Carreno-Busta (ESP) 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0, 4-6, 6-2