PARIS (Reuters) - Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fired France into the Davis Cup final for the first time since 2010 on Saturday when they secured a 3-0 lead against holders Czech Republic thanks to some fine selections by captain Arnaud Clement.
After dropping the first set the French duo beat Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(5) 6-1 to earn victory with a day to spare at Roland Garros.
Les Bleus will face either Switzerland at home or Italy away in the Nov. 21-23 final. Switzerland lead 2-1 in Geneva.
Gasquet gave France the first point on Friday by crushing Berdych before Tsonga doubled the tally also with a straight-sets victory over Lukas Rosol.
Clement made a switch, electing to pair Tsonga and Gasquet rather than Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau, and it worked a treat after he also decided to field Gasquet rather than U.S. Open quarter-finalist Gael Monfils in the singles.
“All the players were in great condition, I am actually happy I had to make those choices,” Clement told a news conference.
World number six Berdych, who looked well below par on Friday, was not much better in the doubles and was the weak link in the Czech pair.
To make matters worse, Stepanek picked up a back injury and could not even sit at the post-match news conference.
“I felt some pain early in the second set but did not pay attention. Then it got worse. In normal circumstances I would have not finished the match,” he said.
Gasquet, on the other hand, led the French duo with aplomb and it was his brilliant dipping backhand return that gave Les Bleus the early break in the first set.
Stepanek managed the net perfectly in the seventh game to help the Czechs, who had won the last two editions of the competition, break back and they saved two break points in the following game to level at 4-4.
In the tiebreak Gasquet’s stunning crosscourt backhand winner put Les Bleus 4-2 up, only for the Czechs to win five points in a row and bag the opening set.
The French saved break points in the second and fourth games of the second set but needed only one opportunity to steal their opponents’ serve in the fifth game when Tsonga flicked a backhand winner.
Just before Tsonga served for the second set, Stepanek left the court to receive medical treatment but the hosts were clearly unfazed as the world number 12 wrapped it up with an ace.
A Berdych double fault handed France a break in the first game of the third set and the hosts were 3-0 up after another break, but a brilliant Berdych forehand winner down the line helped the Czechs pull one game back.
In an another momentum shift, France went from 4-2 up with a break point for 5-2 to 5-4 down despite Stepanek receiving treatment again.
However, they won the tiebreak 7-5 after recovering from a 4-2 deficit and it proved too high a mountain to climb for the Czechs whose hopes of a third consecutive title evaporated in a one-sided fourth set.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman