Great Britain have suffered their first Davis Cup whitewash since 2009 after victory for Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau over Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot sent France through to the semi-finals.
After straight-sets defeats for Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans on day one at Rouen’s Kindarena, the chances of an away win were remote at best.
The doubles was much tighter and Murray and Inglot had chances to win each of the first three sets but instead suffered a narrow 7-6 (7) 5-7 7-5 7-5 defeat to end their campaign for another year. France now move through to a semi-final in September against either Serbia or Spain.
Britain have twice come from 2-0 down to win Davis Cup ties, most recently against Russia in Coventry in 2013.
But, if that was unlikely, this was miracle territory – winning the doubles a formidable task even before considering Sunday’s reverse singles.
Mahut was robbed of his Wimbledon-winning partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert through injury but Benneteau was hardly a weak substitute.
The clay surface made things even tougher for Britain but Murray and Inglot, playing together for the fourth time, were the stronger pair for much of the match and were left to rue costly errors at important moments.
Inglot netted a routine backhand on the third set point and then missed a straightforward volley as France fought back from 4-1 down in the tie-break to level at 4-4.
And, after a fourth British set point came and went, Benneteau forced the error from Inglot to give the French the advantage.
But the Londoner played a starring role in levelling the match, with his brilliant lob breaking the Benneteau serve at 5-5 in the second set before Murray served it out.
When the British team broke the Mahut serve to lead 3-2 in the third set, an 18th win from the last 20 Davis Cup doubles rubbers looked on the cards.
But, after seeing five break points in the set go begging, a missed Inglot volley on the sixth brought the French team back on terms.