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Russia and France to face-off for Davis Cup semifinals

MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - The Davis Cup quarterfinals will open Friday between the Russian and French men's tennis teams at the Olimpiisky sports complex and run through July 17.

The face-off has become one "of principle" as Russians won the Davis Cup final at the Paris-Bercy sports complex in France in late 2002. The winning Russian team included Marat Safin, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Mikhail Yuzhny, the latter won the tie against Paul-Henri Mathieu, setting the final teams score at 3-2.

Only Yuzhny will represent the three-year old champion team at the Olimpiisky's court, as Safin had to take a short break after Wimbledon, due to a minor knee hurt.

The 2005 Russian team includes Nikolay Davidenko, who has the lead, alongside Safin, among Russian tennis-players, according to the ATP ratings, and also Igor Andreyev and team debutant Teimuraz Gabashvili, who won the Russian championship title in 2004. Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev called Gabashvili a very promising and talented player, able to entrench himself in the national team.

The French captain, Guy Forget, has brought along Paul-Henri Mathieu, who played in the 2002 Davis Cup final against Russia. But experts said he could hardly be a leader in the French "musketeer" team, and put their hopes on Richard Gasquet, the 19-year-old "wunderkind", who fluttered world men's tennis a few month ago with his violent and powerful game, having beaten even Roger Federer, the world's top player and new tennis legend.

The French team also includes Arnaud Climent and Michael Llodra. The latter, 28, seems to be the team grandfather, compared to his younger teammates. He played in 18 matches for the national team, not succeeding much as a single player, but fares well in doubles.

Russia and France's joint tennis history includes four matches resulted in a 2-2 tie.

The winner will face either Croatia or Romania in semi-finals

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