Defending Champions France Into Davis Cup Final

AFP | France's Lucas Pouille gestures to the crowd after clinching the hosts second point in their Davis Cup semi-final against Spain

France's Benoit Paire reacts during his match against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.

Defending champion France is one win away from back-to-back Davis Cup final berths after Lucas Pouille defeated Spain's Roberto Bautista-Agut 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to give his side a 2-0 lead.

Four-time champions France, captained by 1983 French Open victor Yannick Noah, will meet either Croatia or the United States in the final in late November.

Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers should play for the first time together in the Davis Cup, with Granollers making a return to the national team for the first time since 2013, playing with Marc Lopez and Tommy Robredo in the past.

Bautista-Agut did his utmost to get Spain on the scoreboard, winning the first set of his match against Pouille and then staving off seven set points in the second set before finally losing a close tiebreaker.

The bearded 29-year-old enjoyed what he termed "a dream" 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Pablo Carreno Busta to get Noah's defending champions off to a ideal start in less than two hours.

From 3-5 down, he rallied to win the next nine games and, in total, 16 of the last 17 as his all-court attacking approach showed up Carreno Busta's hampered movement as he succumbed in less than two hours.

That contest lasted four hours and 43 minutes in Zadar, where Croatia will still fancy their chances of winning the tie having won both of Friday's singles matches without dropping a set.

Pouille - who beat Belgium's Steve Darcis in the decisive fifth rubber in the final previous year - lost the first set before letting slip a 2-1 lead, though he claimed the crucial break in the ninth game of the decider before serving out for a 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 2-6 6-4 victory.

Croatia could clinch their final ticket in Saturday's doubles in which Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic will face Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison.

Croatia have made the final twice, in 2005, when they were crowned champions, and 2016.

Jim Courier's team is missing two top players - John Isner, world number 10 who has stayed home due to family reasons, and injured Jack Sock.

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