Paire to open for France against Spain in Davis Cup

French team with captain Yannick Noah right Lucas Pouille second right Richard Gasquet third right Benois Paire third left Julien Benneteau second left and Nicolas Mahut attends the Davis Cup draw Thursday Sept.13 2018 in Lille northern Fran

Pouille, who won the decisive fifth match in the 2017 final, saved a break point in the final game of the fifth set with a winning serve, then earned his third match point with an ace and sealed his win when Bautista Agut sent a forehand wide.

"At this level, in a semi-final, it's all about who goes for it".

The 2-0 lead for France means that the champions can book a place in back-to-back finals - and the last in the competition's current traditional format - if Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut prevail in Saturday's battle of 30-somethings in the doubles with Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers. Yet he has grown into a much more reliable and consistent performer in 2018 which prompted Noah to select him for his first tie at the unlikely age of 29.

"I've waited a long time for this and it's a dream to win on my debut", said Paire.

The 21-year-old Coric had lost his only previous encounter with the USA number three at Roland Garros but on Zadar's clay courts drew first blood for the hosts against Johnson, who was leading his country in the absence of John Isner and Jack Sock. "Though it's been a long time, hopefully it's not too late for me and I'll get more chances".

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The hot-tempered Paire was sent home from the Rio Olympics after the French Tennis Federation accused him of breaking team rules, but France Davis Cup captain Yannick Noah said he fitted in well in his squad.

Spain turned up in Lille without Rafael Nadal.

As Pouille was starting his match Croatia had already notched up their commanding 2-0 lead over the United Status in the other semi-final in Zadar. In the reverse singles, Pouille is scheduled to take on Carreno Busta, while Paire should be up against Bautista Agut.

"We knew there was some risk in playing but I felt really good yesterday and chose to play", explained Carreno Busta. "Both teams can win the five points, it will be a very open semifinal".

Bryan and Harrison were one set from victory but the Croatian pair of Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic fought back to force a decider which the American duo won after a tie-break. "Let's wait until he breaks five or six rackets, you'll all love it and when you look at my face it'll be a amusing sight".

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