Davydenko beats Clement to give Russia 2-0 lead
PAU, France, Apr 7 (Reuters) Nikolay Davydenko recovered from a sluggish start to beat Arnaud Clement 3-6 6-2 6-4 7-6, giving Russia a 2-0 lead over France in their Davis Cup quarter-final today.
With Marat Safin beating French number one Richard Gasquet 7-6 4-6 6-3 6-7 6-1 in the opening singles, world number six Davydenko gave the hosts a flicker of hope of ending the day on level terms when he dropped the first set in 36 minutes.
The Russian eventually outfoxed Clement, who was standing in for an injured Sebastien Grosjean, 7-4 in the fourth set tiebreak to give the 2002 champions firm control of the tie.
Davydenko clinched the win in three hours and two minutes, leaving his team one point shy of reaching the semi-finals.
Teenager Gasquet ran out of steam at the end of an enthralling five-setter against the 2005 Australian Open champion.
Safin broke early in the first set only for Gasquet to come back and force the Russian into a tiebreak. Safin, however, held his nerve to win the opener with a powerful service winner.
STUNNING BACKHAND World number 16 Gasquet defended an early break to take the second set before letting his opponent claim the third.
The 19-year-old bravely held serve to force the fourth set to a tiebreak in which he crushed Safin 7-1 with some stunning backhand winners on the fast indoor surface.
But Safin, who in February returned from a seven-month injury layoff, dominated the last set to seal a three-hour, 40-minute victory that laid to rest any fears about his match fitness.
''It was a very, very good match and I am happy to have won a five-setter,'' said Safin.
Gasquet said ''He served extremely well and I did all I could to return his serves. In the fifth set, I got tense after losing my serve but he (Safin) is the reason why. He played a great match.'' The tie is a repeat of last year's quarter-final between the countries which Russia won 3-2 in Moscow. Russia also beat France 3-2 in the 2002 final in Paris.
In tomorrow's doubles, Clement and Michael Llodra tackle Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny.
The reverse singles will be played on Sunday.
France have won the four previous Davis Cup ties they have played in Pau.
Reuters OM VP0037