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Sports

Davis Cup: France face day of destiny against Croatia

media Nicolas Mahut (left) and Pierre-Hugues Herbert must win their doubles match against Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig to maintain their country's hopes of an 11th Davis Cup title. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

On Saturday in Lille, as the France team sift through the carnage of opening day losses on Friday in the Davis Cup final, the historians among them can point to a recovery from 0-2 down.

The pessimists, though, might hold sway after Borna Coric and Marin Cilic annihilated Jeremy Chardy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga respectively.

The fabled comeback happened in 1939 when Australia stared at the abyss. But the likes of Adrian Quist and John Bromwich puffed up their chests at the Merion Cricket Club in Pennsylvania and triumphed 3-2 against the United States.

Nearly 80 years on, French players will have to regale the 26,000 fans at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium with extraordinary skill and resilience over two days to hoist the cup for an 11th time on Sunday evening.

Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert are the men charged with part one of a seemingly impossible mission.

They will take on Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig on Saturday afternoon. French failure will give the Croatians a second title in the 118 year history of the competition.

On the eve of the clash, the France captain, Yannick Noah, said his men would fight to the end.

“The doubles team has a lot of experience. We’ve got something to hold on to and we’re not yet dead.”

Mahut and Herbert have won a clutch of major prizes together including the 2018 French Open title. They were beaten finalists just before the Davis Cup final at the ATP Finals in London.

Dodig and Pavic claimed the Chengdu Open in September. Admittedly it’s a prize not quite as glittering as the Roland Garros bauble but Dodig has claimed that crown with Marcelo Melo and Pavic won the 2018 Australian Open in January with Oliver Marach from Austria.

“It will be a difficult match against a good team,” added Noah. “If I have any negative thoughts after the first day I’ve got to put them aside and think about giving good energy to the team.”

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