France beat Argentina to reach Davis Cup final

By Chrystel Boulet-Euchin

LYON, France (Reuters) - Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement's expertise in the doubles was too much for Argentina's Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos on Saturday when France clinched a 3-0 win to power into the Davis Cup final.

France, who got off to a perfect start on Friday with singles victories by Llodra and Gael Monfils, will face either Serbia away or Czech Republic at home in the December 3-5 final.

Although they were without their injured number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Guy Forget's team, who beat holders Spain in the previous round, went on the attack in all their three matches, backed by a loud Palais des Sports crowd.

"I am very proud, they're all here together, the seven of them, those who played and those who also contributed to this victory," captain Forget said in a courtside interview as Monfils, substitute Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet, Tsonga and Julien Benneteau congratulated the day's winners.

"There is still a great tie to be played," Forget added.

Clement and Llodra, pairing up in the men's team event for the first time since 2008, quickly found their marks, bagging the opening set with a spectacular point at the net.

But Llodra was too strong at the net, Clement too precise on his service returns, for them to be really threatened and they pocketed the second set with a decisive break in the 12th game.

GOOD WINE

Schwank and Zeballos continued to struggle at the net in the third and found themselves trailing 5-2.

Dozens of Argentina fans stood up and yelled their support to try to inspire a fightback and they held serve to reach 5-3.

However, the respite was short and a Llodra service winner clinched a deserved victory for the home side after two hours 29 minutes.

"This is fabulous. I am, with my mates, in the Davis Cup final, now with my mate Arnaud, I'm so happy," said Llodra as many of the 6,000 fans waved French flags in the same arena where France won the Davis Cup final back in 1991.

"We're like good wine, we get better with age."

The 32-year-old Clement was grateful to get the chance to play a part in the team's victory.

Argentina captain Tito Vazquez did not expect the match to turn out the way it did.

"I could not imagine the score would be that harsh, although I knew the French were strong," he told reporters. "Things would have been different if we had been at 1-1 Friday night."

Monfils, a 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-3 winner over David Nalbandian on Friday, is due to play Juan Monaco in the reverse singles on Sunday when Llodra, who beat Monaco 7-5 4-6 7-5 6-3, is due to play Nalbandian.

(Reporting by Chrystel Boulet-Euchin, writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Barry Moody and Ken Ferris)