LILLE France (Reuters) - Switzerland made a big step toward a maiden Davis Cup title when they took a 2-1 lead in the final against hosts France with Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka's 6-3 7-5 6-4 win in the doubles against Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau on Saturday.
Federer, who looked in good shape after struggling with back problems this week, will have the opportunity to claim the winning point in Sunday's first reverse singles against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Wawrinka gave Switzerland the first point by beating Tsonga 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2 and Gael Monfils leveled when he thrashed Federer 6-1 6-4 6-3 on Friday on the Pierre Mauroy stadium's clay.
France, who last triumphed in 2001, are looking to win the Davis Cup for the 10th time but after Saturday's doubles the task seems almost impossible as world number four Wawrinka has been playing at his best and Federer is getting better.
Switzerland captain Severin Luthi had initially selected Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer but unsurprisingly changed his lineup.
"We wanted the best team on court and obviously the best team was with Roger and Stan," said Luthi.
Federer seemed much more at ease as he knew he could also rely on the in-form Wawrinka.
"Stan has been unbelievably supportive, Severin and the coaching staff did a really good job. Now I'm gonna rest and recover," said Federer.
The pair had won the Beijing Olympics gold medal but had lost their four previous Davis Cup doubles together. They were unfazed by the partisan crowd or the presence of French president Francois Hollande and retained serve throughout.
They broke in the sixth game when Gasquet could not handle Wawrinka's powerful volley and the visitors went on to take the opening set as Benneteau fluffed yet another forehand.
The French were more solid in the second set as Benneteau's level rose to Gasquet.
"Richard! Richard!," sang the crowd, who were to be disappointed.
The French wasted five break points before Gasquet faded and the Swiss, especially Federer, regained grip on the match to break in the 11th game and take a two-set lead.
The Swiss broke for 3-2 in the third thanks to Wawrinka's forehand passing shot and France never threatened. Wawrinka ended the French ordeal with a safe backhand volley on the second match point.
"I'm really confident with my game, he (Federer) was a little bit struggling yesterday but (it was) because he did not practice, but today we both played really well, we both did our job," Wawrinka said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Gene Cherry