The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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France take 2-1 lead

Paris, Nov. 30 (Reuters): France’s Fabrice Santoro and Nicolas Escude staged an extraordinary comeback to win the doubles 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 against Russia and put the hosts within one victory of retaining their Davis Cup title. The teams were locked 1-1 after Friday’s singles.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov and world No. 3 Marat Safin appeared set for victory after winning the third set of the final and leading 2-0 in the fourth.

But the French pair, roared on by a fanatical crowd in the Bercy stadium, won five games running to knock the wind out of the Russians’ challenge.

The odds are now firmly stacked against the Russians winning their first title because the team losing the doubles have not won the final since 1977.

Kafelnikov’s final nightmare shows no sign of ending and his thrashing by Sebastien Grosjean in Friday’s singles, means he could also be substituted in the reverse singles on Sunday.

After Kafelnikov’s destruction by Grosjean it was no surprise the French pairing attacked his serve in the fourth game of the match, and their tactics paid off as the Russian dropped the game to love with a double fault. Safin’s body language showed he was disgusted and at the changeover he sat in his chair, looking away from his partner as Russian coach Shamil Tarpischev tried to revive Kafelnikov. The 28-year-old was serving poorly and hitting his returns too high, giving the French pairing a clutch of easy points at the net. Escude and Santoro won the Paris Masters at Bercy four weeks ago but had never played before in the Davis Cup.

France took the first set on their fourth set point but Safin was a different player in the second, hitting the ball flat and with exceptional power. Kafelnikov made the most of the momentum to put away a backhand volley and break Santoro’s service early in the second.

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