PARIS: France, Spain, Australia and Argentina moved into the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup on Saturday with winning leads in their opening World Group matches.
Last year's beaten finalists France as expected had little trouble against Romania to set up their last eight match with the Netherlands or Switzerland, in this men's tennis world team championships, on April 4 to 6.
The French doubles pair of Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra beat Andrei Pavel and Gabriel Trifu 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) after Sebastien Grosjean and Nicolas Escude had won their singles rubbers, also in straight sets, on Friday.
French skipper Guy Forget said he had been optimistic for the third and match-winning rubber after Santoro and Llodra won the Australian Open doubles last month.
“When you have a pair which has just won the doubles in a Grand Slam event, you can be confident of victory,” Forget said. “We were stronger and made fewer volley errors than the Romanians. The team has completed its mission in this fixture.”
France continued their consistency in this event by qualifying for the last eight for the sixth time in 10 years, with Netherlands favourites to be their next opponents as they were leading Switzerland 2-1.
The French will next be at home against either the Swiss or in Holland, whose coach Georges Daniau was once involved in the French set-up.
Australia brushed aside an under-strength Britain with a 4-1 victory in Sydney. Teenage tyro Alex Bogdanovic saved Britain from a whitewash with a spirited win over experienced Todd Woodbridge yesterday.
Competition thoroughbreds Australia, 27-time winners, secured passage into April's quarter-finals against either Brazil (home) or Sweden (away) with an unbeatable 3-0 lead on Saturday, making yesterday's reverse singles matches purely statistical.
It was Australia's eighth win over Great Britain in 12 Davis Cup ties and set them up for a quarter-final against ei
Spain's Alex Corretja and Albert Costa won their doubles rubber against Belgium.
Corretja and Costa beat Olivier Rochus and Kristof Vliegen 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 in a four-hour marathon, meaning they face either the USA or Croatia in April's quarter-finals.
On Friday, Juan Carlos Ferrero had beaten Christophe Rochus 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 and Carlos Moya swept aside Xavier Malisse 7-6 (7-2), 6-1, 7-6 (7-5).
Argentina completed half of the quarter-final jigsaw on Saturday with David Nalbandian and Lucas Arnold teaming up to beat Germany's Rainer Schuttler and Michael Kohlmann 6-1, 0-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 for their unassailable 3-0 lead.
Goran Ivanisevic shook off recent injuries to help Croatia into a 2-1 lead over the United States at the end of the second day's play in Zagreb.
Croatia pulled clear after a dramatic doubles lasting over three hours in which Ivanisevic and Ivan Ljubicic defeated Mardy Fish and James Blake 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-4.
Heavy-hitters Gustavo Kuerten and Andre Sa put Brazil in control in their tie against Sweden.
They beat Jonas Bjorkman and Magnus Larsson 6-4, 2-6, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 leaving Brazil with a 2-1 lead and needing to win just one of yesterday's singles to qualify.
Last year's winners Russia lead 2-1 against Czech Republic in Ostrava and Holland lead by the same score against Switzerland in Arnhem. – AFP