France made light work of Italy in the doubles meeting of their 2018 Davis Cup quarter-final on Saturday and reclaimed a 2-1 lead in their last-eight meeting.
Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert took on an Italian pairing of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini and emerged 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 victors in Valencia. Paolo Lorenzi was set to feature but was replaced by Fognini in a late switch.
Other early winners included Germans Jan-Lennard Struff and Tim Puetz as well as Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic of Croatia.
Later on Saturday, the United States host Belgium and will hope a tandem of Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison has what it takes to defeat Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.
The Davis Cup quarter-final singles action will resume on Sunday, including a high-profile collision between Spain's Rafael Nadal and German starlet Alexander Zverev.
Read on for a roundup of Saturday's doubles action as we edge closer to discovering which nations will feature in this year's semi-finals.
France 2-1 Italy
Nicolas Mahut/Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) d. Fabio Fognini/Simone Bolelli (ITA): 6-4, 6-3, 6-1
Spain 1-2 Germany
Jan-Lennard Struff/Tim Puetz (GER) d. Feliciano Lopez/Marc Lopez (ESP): 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 7-5
Croatia 2-1 Kazakhstan
Ivan Dodig/Nikola Mektic (CRO) d. Timur Khabibulin/Aleksandr Nedovyesov (KAZ): 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4, 6-2
United States 2-0 Belgium
Jack Sock/Ryan Harrison (USA) d. Sander Gille/Joran Vliegen (BEL): 5-7, 7-6(1), 7-6(3), 6-4
Visit the Davis Cup website for a breakdown of the full draw.
Fognini made the decision to come into Italy's doubles lineup on Saturday in a bid to play three days in succession for his country, but it went to waste as France sauntered to a straight-sets win.
The likes of Andreas Seppi and Lorenzi sat out for Italy, while France could afford to hold back their two biggest weapons, Lucas Pouille and Jeremy Chardy, and still come away with the win.
France won seven of the 10 break points they faced, per the official Davis Cup website, and contributed only 42 overall errors to Italy's 54.
Herbert was the best player on the court, while neither Fognini or Bolelli showed many signs of getting out of second gear. Tennis writer Jose Morgado hailed the decisive nature of their win:
Fognini's tactic to play three days in succession could prove Italy's undoing on Sunday, when a loss to Pouille in the first match could see his nation slip to 3-1 down and out of the competition.
Croatia's Dodig and Mektic gave the home fans a reason to roar by storming back after dropping the first set to defeat Kazakhstan's Khabibulin and Nedovyesov.
The Croatians converted six of the 14 break points (43 percent) while only allowing their counterparts to take two of their eight chances (25 percent). The difference on those crucial points turned the tide firmly in their favor over the final three sets.
Taking a 2-1 lead in the tie drew a massive reaction from the crowd at Varazdin Arena, as the Davis Cup's Twitter account highlighted:
Marin Cilic will attempt to close out the fixture Sunday when he takes on Mikhail Kukushkin in the fourth rubber. Borna Coric (CRO) and Dmitry Popko (KAZ) will likely battle in the deciding match, if necessary.
Struff and Puetz nearly let a two-set lead slip away against the Spanish Lopez tandem (no relation). They came up with a critical break in the 11th game of the fifth to secure a 2-1 overall lead for Germany.
An aggressive style of play paid off for the Germans. They finished the match with 76 winners, 33 more than their opponents, which helped them overcome 102 unforced errors.
It was another match where break chances were a major factor; Lopez and Lopez converted just two of 20 opportunities to steal a German service game.
Carole Bouchard of the Yellow Ball Corner commented on the upset:
Now Spain will turn to Nadal (vs. Zverev) and David Ferrer (vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber) to lead the Sunday comeback effort for a spot in the semis.
Harrison and Sock gave the United States a 2-1 lead in its tie with Belgium after earning a hard-fought four-set victory over Gille and Vliegen.
To put how close the encounter was in perspective, only twice did more than one game separate the teams over the course of the match. Gille and Vliegen broke Harrison and Sock's serve to take a 6-5 lead in the first set before holding serve and winning the set 7-5. Harrison and Sock returned the favor in the final set, earning a service break in the 10th game to win the match.