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Home   News   Tebbutt: Davis Cup: Bienvenue en France

Tebbutt: Davis Cup: Bienvenue en France

Sep 29, 2015
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt

The gentleman pictured here was working both sides of the street – selling Canadian maple leaf and French tricolour flags – during the 2012 Davis Cup tie in Vancouver between the two countries.

France won that World Group opening round 3-1, which was most memorable for Milos Raonic pulling out of the third day’s first singles match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (below in Vancouver in 2012) with a leg injury. That pretty well guaranteed a French victory as Tsonga then defeated Raonic replacement Frank Dancevic in three sets.

PIX2-Tsonga

Following last Wednesday’s draw for the 2016 World Group, the stage is now set for an opening-round Canada–France rematch next March from the 4th to the 6th in France.

On the face of it France, ranked No. 5, is the clear favourite over the visiting Canadians at No. 10.

But Davis Cup is all about individual match-ups and Canada (the 2012 team in Vancouver below) currently has the best player in the tie with Raonic at No. 9 in the ATP rankings. But the Canadians might not have felt that way just a week ago until his victory on Sunday at the ATP 250 event in St Petersburg, Russia, after a spell of indifferent results dating back to his foot surgery on May 13.

PIX3-CdnDCteam

He was tested in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over a feisty Joao Sousa of Portugal in the final but he rolled through his other three matches and played at a level of tennis getting closer to his best.

The French have seven players in the Top 40 – listed below with the rankings and ages in brackets:

10. Gilles Simon (30)

11. Richard Gasquet (29)

16. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (30)

23. Gael Monfils (29)

26. Jeremy Chardy (28)

32. Benoit Paire (26)

39. Adrian Mannarino (27)

Canada’s two top players are Raonic, 24, and 25-year-old Vasek Pospisil ranked No. 44.

The so-called modern “Mousquetaires” foursome of Tsonga-Gasquet-Simon-Monfils are all at least four years older than Raonic and Pospisil.

PIX4-nestorraonicdbls

It’s hard to see them getting better while Raonic (above playing doubles with Daniel Nestor against France in 2012) and Pospisil would appear to be entering their best years. Conceivably, they could improve even further between now and next March. As a sidebar here: the French players don’t like playing Raonic because his big serve and brutal power off the ground limit their opportunities for more extended and varied rallies.

As far as the doubles, the French can choose from a group of quality players but Nestor and Pospisil still would be at least 50-50 against whomever is selected.

By the time March rolls around, a lot could depend on health, with a fit Raonic and a fit Pospisil absolutely vital to Canada’s chances.

“Our goal is to win the Davis Cup,” said Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. “We’ve been in the semifinals (2013) and we could have been in the final this year. Our guys are in their prime.”

The French will be picking the location and surface for the tie, all under the supervision of new captain Yannick Noah, the 1983 French Open champion and captain of the French Davis Cup winning teams in 1991 and 1996, as well as the Fed Cup winning team in 1997.

It appears in all likelihood the tie will be played on red clay. And it will be held as few as four days before the players involved would have to play their first matches at the BNP Paribas Open hard-court tournament in Indian Wells. So a slow hard court (a fast hard court would make Raonic’s serve even more awesome) could be an option. Still, clay appears to be the probable choice and, because Raonic is so good indoors, it might be outdoors somewhere in the south of France. But weather could be an issue unless it is played in a place really further south such as Corsica in the Mediterranean.

“I don’t know how they’ll decide or what input they’ll have from their players,” Laurendeau said. “I still expect it to be on clay, but Milos likes to play on clay.”

A main reason for that is that the slower, higher bounce on clay gives him time to run around and hit his fearsome forehand.

The major wild card in all this could be 55-year-old Noah. There has been a lot of controversy about the firing of current captain Arnaud Clément, the 37-year-old ex-player who retired in 2012.

Basically Noah, a very successful pop musician following his retirement as a player in 1996, has not been around tennis very much – he has rarely appeared during Roland Garros – since 1998 and is viewed by some as out of touch with the current scene.

Additionally, there’s sympathy for the likeable Clément whose teams lost in the 2014 final to Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka in Lille, France – an injured but still playing Tsonga didn’t help the French cause – and in the semifinals this past July on grass at Queen’s Club to the Andy Murray-led Brits. In 2013, Clément’s Frenchmen went out in the quarter-finals to Argentina in Buenos Aires.

His contract with the French Federation goes through the end of 2016 and there are legal issues involved in his termination as captain.

There’s clearly a generational issue brewing with speculation that new captain Noah might bring in former US Open and Wimbledon finalist Cédric Pioline as assistant captain and Loic Courteau as coach.

Noah unquestionably has irresistible charisma, but does he have credibility as a modern-day captain? And will the current crop of players buy in?

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Laurendeau (above with Clément) has been friendly with the outgoing French captain. “Arnaud is a good guy who has a lot of good qualities,” the Canadian captain commented. “But there are others who have a different opinion.”

Regarding Noah, he said, “I know him a little bit. He’s from my era, maybe a little bit older.”

Looking ahead to the tie, Laurendeau suggested, “it’s going to be a media circus. He has won the Davis Cup twice (as captain) and it will be all about the Noah comeback. The French team will have to manage that. I think they’ll respect our team. And we have guys who speak French so we should get along okay.”

While the opening-round tie is in France, it should not present too much of a travel problem for the Canadians because Raonic, Pospisil and Nestor might be playing in the ATP 500 event in Dubai the previous week – as may some of the French players. The flying time from Dubai to Paris is about seven hours. On top of that, Raonic’s official residence is in Monte Carlo, which basically is France.

“France has so many good players – not just three or four but maybe even 10 – so there will always be people who disagree about who should play,” Laurendeau said about the French team.

“In a way it’s really exciting for us to be playing France. It’s better to be playing one of the best teams in the world than someone like Ecuador.

“It will be a big incentive for our guys to be in top form. France is a team that could win the Cup so there’ll be huge motivation to pull off the upset.

“Having the Australian Open and the Davis Cup in the first few months of next year should get our guys working hard in the off- season to be ready.”

Bouchard bad luck

PIX6-Bouchard

More misfortune for Genie Bouchard as she is forced to withdraw from this week’s WTA Premier 5 event in Wuhan, China.

Bouchard, who had been scheduled to play Belinda Bencic on Monday, said though the WTA Insider’s Twitter account:

It was a long trip from Montreal to Florida and then on to Wuhan. The Montreal – Wuhan voyage alone is 11,509 kilometres as the crow flies – that’s about 20 return trips between Montreal and Toronto.

Bouchard had made the final – losing to Petra Kvitova – a year ago and, since those points came off the computer with this week’s rankings, she has dropped from No. 26 to No. 36.

She currently has 1,303 points but has 250 to defend between now and the end of the 2015 season – including 220 from her participation in the 2014 BNP Paribas WTA Finals in Singapore.

She’s still scheduled to play in the WTA Premier Mandatory event in Beijing next week and then the $250,000 International level event in Hong Kong the following week.

If she is unable to play, or has poor results, her ranking could drop as low as about No. 40, meaning there’s no chance she will be seeded for the 2016 Australian Open in January.

Below are pictures of Bouchard with fans in Wuhan before she pulled out:

Frank falls one short

PIX7-Dancevic

It was 19 match wins in a row at four $15,000 ITF Futures events in Canada for Frank Dancevic – but he missed a perfect sweep of the quartet when he was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Sanam Singh of India in the final of the $15,000 Mayfair Clubs Futures in Markham, Ont., on Sunday.

A week earlier Dancevic, now ranked No. 203, had defeated the No. 304-ranked Singh 6-3, 6-2 in the championship match at the Tevlin Futures at Aviva Centre in Toronto.

Playing indoors at the Mayfair Parkway Racquet and Fitness Club in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto, the 27-year-old Singh was on his game against a slightly jaded Dancevic.

Still Dancevic, who had been struggling before playing the Futures events, achieved his goal of reviving his confidence by stringing together some wins. From No. 277 before his first victory at the $15,000 Futures event in Calgary, his ranking will rise to about No. 190 in the next Monday’s ATP rankings.

Dancevic, who turned 31 last week, will play Challenger tournaments in Fairfield, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, next month, before finishing off the year with tournaments in South America.

Thumbs up from Andy

Here was Andy Murray’s reaction to the Belgian team’s choice of location and surface for the Davis Cup final November 27-29.

Milos and Tomas sewing seeds

Top seed Tomas Berdych and No. 2 Milos Raonic do their bit for forestation during the St. Petersburg, Russia, tournament last week.