| Arnaud Clement after winning a point against Andy Roddick at Roland Garros Friday. Clement won 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-1. (AFP)
Paris: Champions France roared to the brink of their third Davis Cup final in four years on Friday when young Americans Andy Roddick and James Blake fell victim to clay-court guile and experience at the home of French tennis.
Sebastien Grosjean handed France a 2-0 lead after quelling a brave James Blake comeback 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (7-9), 7-5 — the American appeared a broken man in the second set and was forced to save three match points in the third set tie-break.
Earlier, Arnaud Clement lost the first four games against a rampant Andy Roddick but wore down the power-hitting 20-year-old with his double-handed backhand to win 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.
“In a match like that you have to play with your heart and go hunting for points,” said Clement who has never lost an opening day singles in the competition.
Neither of the Americans had lost in the Davis Cup before — a total of 12 matches. The US, who have never won in Paris in the century-long history of the competition, have never come back from 0-2 down to win a tie since the World Group format was introduced in the early 1970s.
McEnroe has named Mardy Fish and Todd Martin for Saturday’s doubles but he had hinted he could change the team depending on Friday’s results.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov fought from two match points down to edge past Gaston Gaudio 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 2-6, 8-6 in a four-hour battle to give Russia a 2-0 lead over Argentina in their semi-final in Moscow.
Marat Safin had earlier given the home side a 1-0 lead by coming from behind to beat Juan Ignacio Chela 6-7 7-5 7-5 6-1 in the opening singles.
The Russians are bidding to clinch their first Davis Cup title this year to send Kafelnikov into a happy retirement.
Kafelnikov faced two match points at 2-5 down in the fifth set but kept his nerve to finally clinch the rubber.
RESULTS, WORLD GROUP QUALIFIERS
In Harare: Belgium lead Zimbabwe 2-0 (
Xavier Malisse bt Wayne Black 7-6 (7-1), 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, 6-3; Olivier Rochus bt Byron Black 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-2, 6-3).
In Karlsruhe: Germany lead Venezuela 2-0 (Rainer Schuettler bt Jose de Armas 6-1, 6-1, 6-1; Tommy Haas beat Jimmy Szymanski 6-1, 6-2, 6-1).
In Birmingham: Britain 1 Thailand 1 (Tim Henman bt Danai Udomchoke 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; Paradorn Srichaphan bt Martin Lee 6-0, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2).
In Casablanca: Morocco 1 Switzerland 1: (Younes El Aynaoui bt Michel Kratchovil 7-5, 6-2, 6-2; Roger Federer bt Hicham Arazi
6-3, 6-2, 6-1).