AFP

ISLAMABAD

Aqeel Khan's injury cost Pakistan dearly as hopes of winning Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-II final against hosts Thailand are over after defeat in doubles match Saturday. Aqeel/Asiam tasted straight sets defeat in the doubles must-win match which gave hosts Thailand 3-0 unassailable lead on the second day of the tie played at Bangkok.

Pakistan's longest serving number 1 tennis player Aqeel Khan while talking with The Nation from Bangkok showed his disappointment and blamed his shoulder injury for defeat of Pakistan in the tie.

Aqeel/Asiam took on Sanchai Ratiwatana/Sonchst Ratiwatana in the only match of the day. Pakistan pair Asiam played brilliantly in the first set and but after giving tough time to opponents they finally lost the first set 7-5. Second set also started in same fashion but Pakistani pair ran out of gas and lost the second and third set 6-2, 6-2 to hand over the match as well as tie to Thailand. “It is quite unfortunate we lost the finals without any resistance. I was not expecting we go down without any fight but I had not played tennis for the last 3-months. I had taken decision to play the tie in the best interest of the country as I was sure even if I am half fit, along with Aisam we could get something out of the tie. Unfortunately, we failed to clear the final hurdle, but we would come again and try to change fortunes next time around and play in the Group-I,” said Aqeel.

France reached the Davis Cup final for the first time since 2010 on Saturday when they took an unassailable 3-0 lead over two-time defending champions Czech Republic in their semi-final. In the November 21-23 final, France will tackle either Switzerland or Italy whose semi-final in Geneva saw the home side pegged back to 2-1 after the Italian team won Saturday's doubles.

At Roland Garros, nine-time champions France clinched the winning point when Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1. It was just the second loss in 17 doubles outings for the veteran Czech pair with their previous defeat coming in the 2009 final against Spain. Gasquet and Tsonga, who had only previously played togeQther on one occasion -- in January's first round win over Australia -- had won Friday's opening singles with Gasquet beating Berdych 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 and Tsonga seeing off Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. However, their efforts on Saturday were aided by a hip injury to Stepanek while an out-of-sorts Berdych was clearly unsettled by the patriotic fervour inside Roland Garros, the home of the French Open.

Despite dropping the first set, the French pair capitalised on Stepanek's woes who struggled for movement around the court especially in the fourth set. After two breaks of serve, Tsonga served out the match to secure a place in the final, four years after their last appearance which resulted in a defeat to Serbia.

"It's for sure one of the best moments in our career to play here in a semifinal and to win in the second day," said Tsonga. "We always kept the fighting spirit and stayed in the match -- we all know the Davis Cup is tough." In Geneva, doubles duo Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini took advantage of the absence of Roger Federer to keep Italy's semi-final hopes alive. Bolelli and Fognini both lost their singles ties on Friday to Federer and Stan Wawrinka respectively but came through 7-5, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 against Swiss pairing Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli to ensure that the tie will be decided on Sunday.

Federer, who was rested on Saturday as in 2009 against the same rivals, will once again be called on to seal the decisive point on Sunday against Fognini. On Friday, Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam champion who has never appeared in a Davis Cup final, defeated Bolelli 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4 in the opening rubber and then Wawrinka crushed Fognini 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. "This point was very important for us, even if Roger wasn't playing," said Fognini. "I am much happier with my performance today, I served much better than yesterday, I returned much better. It's still going to be very difficult for us but it's a little less difficult than before." The Swiss are bidding for a place in the Davis Cup final for just the second time after finishing second to the United States in 1992.