Davis Cup: Wawrinka to open with Tsonga. Federer to play Monfils in the second match - UBITENNIS
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Davis Cup: Wawrinka to open with Tsonga. Federer to play Monfils in the second match

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TENNIS – The Stade Pierre Mauroy will be the stage for the eagerly-awaited Davis Cup Final between France and Switzerland from Friday to Sunday. The Draw took place at the Chambre de Commerce in Lille. Stan Wawrinka will face Jo Wilfred Tsonga in the opening match on Friday afternoon. Roger Federer will take on Gael Monfils in the second singles match. Diego Sampaolo

France and Switzerland will square off against in the Davis Cup for the 12th time in front of 27000 spectators. The French team won 10 of their previous 12 head-to-head matches in this event. Switzerland won their only matches in 1992 in the quarter finals in Nimes with 3-2 and in 2003 again in the quarter finals in Toulouse with 3-2. France won their most recent match in 2004 when Nicolas Escudé won the fifth rubber match to clinch the 3-2 win in the quarter finals. France made its last appearance in a final in 2010 when They lost to Serbia 2-3 in Belgrade. In that match Michael Llodra fell to Viktor Troicki in the decisive fifth singles match

France qualified to the final with a 5-0 win over Australia in the first round, followed by a 3-2 win over Germany in the quarter finals and a 4-1 win over Czech Republic in the semifinal. Switzerland beat Serbia 3-2 in the first round before two more 3-2 wins over Kazakhstan in the quarter final and Italy in the semifinal.

Stan Wawrinka and Jo Wilfred Tsonga will open the programme on Friday afternoon. Tsonga leads over Wawrinka with 3-2 in their previous head-to-head matches but they are tied 2-2 on clay, the surface where the Davis Cup Final will be played. They have not met for 18 months. In their last match Wawrinka won a quarter final on clay in Madrid in May 2013.

In the second match Roger Federer will face Gael Monfils in a re-match of the US Open quarter final where the Swiss legend recovered from two sets down to win in five sets with 4-6 3-6 6-4 7-5 6-2. In this match Federer had to save two match points. In the other previous match played in 2014 Federer beat Monfils 6-4 4-6 6-3 in the Round of 16 in Cincinnati. Federer leads over Monfils 8-2 in their previous head-to-head matches and 4-0 on clay.

On Saturday Benneteau and Gasquet will play against Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer.

Federer will face Tsonga in the first reverse rubber on Sunday afternoon. Federer leads 11-5 over Tsonga in their previous head-to-head matches and leads 2-1 on clay. This year Federer beat Tsonga in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open and in the quarter finals in Monte-Carlo but the Frenchman won their last match in the Toronto Master 1000 final last August.

The second reverse rubber match will be played between Wawrinka and Monfils. They tied 2-2 in their previous head-to-head matches but they never squared off against on clay.

The home team will be bidding to their 10th Davis Cup Trophy and their first since 2001. The French team played their last Davis Cup Final in 2010 when they lost 3-2 against Serbia in Belgrade. If the home team wins this weekend, they will overtake Great Britain as the third most successful team in history behind the USA (32 titles) and Australia (28).

The Swiss team are looking to win their first ever Davis Cup Trophy in their first final since 1992 when the red-crossed team formed by Jakob Hlasek and Marc Rosset lost 1-3 in Fort Worth against a star-studded US team formed by André Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, John McEnroe

While the strong French team can count on the extraordinary depth with five players ranked inside the top-30 in the world ranking: Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau, Richard Gasquet and reserve player Giles Simon, Swiss hopes will be carried by two formidable top-4 players Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka who played a hard-fought semifinal at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

There is a question mark on Federer’s fitness after the Swiss Maestro was forced to withdraw from last Sunday’s Final in London against Novak Djokovic because of a back injury.

Federer trained on Wednesday evening and on Thursday afternoon and seems to be recovered from the back injury and ready to play against Monfils on Friday afternoon.

“It was not good enough to practice yesterday. I wish progress would be faster but we are trying hard. We are heading in that direction. It’s definitely better that it was on Saturday. Baby steps. I am hopeful. I cannot give any percentage As long as you are not on court practicing, you have no references. I am making some progress but I don’t have a month ahead of me to get better. I need to get better quickly. I am trying to get better”, said Federer at the press conference in Lille on Tuesday.

Federer was asked about the ill feeling between him and Wawrinka after their epic and tense semifinal in London.

“We had a conversation after the match. Everything is totally relaxed about the situation. We have Severin as a coach and Davis Cup coach and friend who was there. There are no hard feelings whatsoever. We are having a good time here. We are friends, not enemies. It was probably one of the heat-of the moment situations. I don’ think from this point forward there is much to say about it anymore”, said Federer

Federer will be looking to add the Davis Cup Trophy to his 17 Grand Slam titles, his six ATP Finals wins and his Master 1000 wins. The Davis Cup is one of the very few missing titles from his impressive collections. If he wins the Davis Cup, he will join many tennis legends who triumphed in this tournament. The long list features Fred Perry, Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, Pete Sampras, André Agassi, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Federer won all his five singles matches this year and boasts a 48-16 career record in all his Davis Cup singles matches. He could overtake Jakob Hlasek as the most successful Swiss player in this event

This weekend’s final could be one of the last chances for the Swiss team to lift the Davis Cup Trophy after a formidable year for both Federer and Wawrinka. Federer won five ATP titles and played in 11 finals ending the year in second place behind Novak Djokovic. Wawrinka won his first ever Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and his first Master 1000 title in Monte-Carlo. Wawrinka owns a 20-13 record in singles matches Wawrinka contributed to the 3-2 win in the semifinal against Italy in the semifinal in Geneva with his singles win over Fabio Fognini.

French captain Arnoud Clement has named two top-20 players Jo Wilfred Tsonga (World Number 12) and Gael Monfils (19). Tsonga beat Federer in the Toronto Master 1000 Final last August. Monfils reached two Grand Slam quarter finals this year at the French Open and the US Open.

Gasquet contributed significantly to the French win against Czech Republic in the semifinal held last July on the Phillip Chatrier court, the venue of the Roland Garros in Paris last September, with a singles win over Tomas Berdych in three sets before teaming up Tsonga in the doubles.

Clement nominated Julien Benneteau, who is ranked World Number 25 in singles and Number 5 in doubles. Benneteau could be very important in the doubles match. He won the doubles title at the Roland Garros together with Edouard Roger-Vasselin and reached the semifinals in the doubles at the ATP Finals in London last week.

France won nine titles and lost seven finals in the previous 16 final appearances in the Davis Cup. The first French triumph dates back to 1927 with a team formed by Henry Lacoste, Jean Borotra, Henry Cochet and Jacques Brugnon.

Borotra, Cochet and Brugnon won five more titles between 1928 and 1932. Fifty-nine years after France triumphed against the USA on home soil with 3-1 in Lyon with a team formed by Guy Forget, Henry Leconte, Arnaud Boetsch and Fabrice Santoro. Two more titles followed in 1996 in Malmoe when they beat Sweden 3-2 (Guy Forget, Arnaud Boetsch and Fabrice Santoro) and 2001 when they beat Australia 3-2 in Melbourne (Cedric Pioline, Fabrice Santoro, Nicolas Escudé, Sebastian Grosjean and Arnaud Clement.

Clement will be bidding to win the Davis Cup first as player and then as coach of the French team.

Federer and Wawrinka won the Olympic doubles title in Beijing in 2008 but they have rarely played together since then. In Davis Cup their doubles record is 2-4 when they played together. They are 16-10 in all competitions.

The Stade Pierre Mauroy will play host to the much-awaited Davis Cup Final in front of 27000 enthusiastic fans. The Stadium with its retractable roof is home to the Lille Metropole Football Team and hosted matches of the UEFA Champion’s League and a rugby test match between France and Argentina. The Stade Pierre Mauroy is named after the Mayor of Lille from 1973 to 2001 and served as Prime Minister in the Government of French President Francois Mitterrand. in the early to mid-1990s

“The stadium is beautiful. That’s the first thing that strikes you. It’s very big. It’s wonderful to be able to play on such a court”, said Richard Gasquet.

“There has been a great excitement especially since the semifinal in Roland Garros when we qualified. When the players came here, they were very eager to see the stadium. My players have been training together during the past 10 days in Bordeaux. Julien came and joined us after the ATP Finals in London . He is very fit and adapted very well to the clay”, said French captain Arnoud Clement.

Arnaud Clement was asked if the uncertainty concerning Roger Federer’s fitness could change the French team. “We are not thinking that Roger will not play on Friday. We have been preparing for 10 days and we are prepared to play the Swiss team with Federer and Wawrinka. Many people asked about Federer, even before Federer pulled out on Sunday. What we are going to play is not Federer’s team, it is the Swiss team. They have good players. This is the reason we we are preparing for the past 10 days because we want to be at our best to beat that team, which is the favourite for the time being”.

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Could Regional Groups Boost Davis Cup’s Appeal?

Home-and-away ties are charming, but may be complicated and expensive. Round-robin groups are efficient, but may lack atmosphere. A possible solution for Davis Cup to have the cake and eat it, too

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The Australian Open ended barely a week ago and tennis has celebrated another milestone of its ever-grueling calendar. The past weekend saw Davis Cup select the 16 teams for the final stage of the competition through the Qualifiers that took place across continents and time zones.

We gave an account of the results of these 12 ties, some of which ended in a nailbiter, over the course of the past few days. Here, however, we want to stress once again how this highly criticized event, profoundly changed in its formula by the “Kosmos revolution”, still manages to generate unique emotions in its actors despite the lack of some components that had accompanied its history for over a century.

The tears of Nicolas Massu, captain of the Chilean national team, after the victory of the decisive match by Alejandro Tabilo over Peruvian Ignacio Buse summarise what Davis Cup means in that country, in which there are entire areas devastated by fires and whose populations were mentioned by the former Olympic gold medalist: “This victory is for those who are going through a difficult time – said Massu in front of the packed stands of the Estadio Nacional in Santiago even though it was already past midnight – in the hope that it can bring them at least a little happiness.”

The tie between Chile and Peru, won 3-2 by the hosts, reminded everyone, in case it was needed, of the charm of the “home and away” component of the Davis Cup, that is when one of the teams hosts the opponent on their own turf. But he wasn’t the only one: the tie decided in the third set tie-break in the deciding singles between Argentina and Kazakhstan, played on clay in Rosario, in which Sebastian Baez angrily snatched the last four points against Dmitry Popko, as the light was fading in the Argentine summer evening, provided a moment of great emotional intensity.

And it is worth noting that nothing has been taken away from the drama of these matches by the distance of the two sets out of three of all the matches: the “best of five” would have lengthened the matches and made some of these clashes as epic as perhaps impossible to follow by a television audience that cannot have entire days available (and it would have been three days instead of two) to follow Davis Cup matches.

This year the ITF has granted greater flexibility on the scheduling of matches: when this new formula debuted, the “home and away” ties had to be played on Friday and Saturday, to leave Sunday as a travel day for players who had to reach the venue of the next tournament. However, we have now seen different variations, with some host countries deciding to play on Saturday and Sunday to maximize the attendance of the crowd. The match between Ukraine and the USA even took place on Thursday and Friday in Vilnius, Lithuania, to facilitate the return of American players to Dallas, home of the next ATP tournament.

This Davis Cup formula is not perfect, this has been clear for quite some time. And the ITF, now back in control of the event after the failure of the Kosmos experiment, is going ahead in a succession of trials and errors trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, or rather safeguarding what good things the old Davis Cup formula still had by mixing them with the new element of the round-robin groups which significantly simplifies players’ lives, makes the competition logistically more predictable and, most importantly, limits the total cost of the competition.

The solution with the four groups in September and the knockout finals in November seems promising, but there are still too many matches played in front of half-empty arenas populated by only a few hundred fans. The groupings in a single venue, if on the one hand allow for more efficient logistical planning and limit unexpected changes of surface for the players, on the other hand in some cases remove the crowd factor which has very often been the essence of historic Davis Cup matches. One of the pillars of Kosmos’ vision, the ”World Cup of Tennis”, immediately proved to be an unattainable chimera, and that’s where Kosmos’ entire business plan started to crumble. Expecting tennis to have a sufficient number of fans willing to travel across the world to follow their national team, and do so every year, has proven to be completely unrealistic.

It is necessary to find corrective measures to bring the atmosphere of “home and away” ties to the arenas of round-robin groups. And one of these corrective measures could be to group the teams taking into consideration some geographic criteria. Up to this moment all the round-robin groups of the “new Davis Cup” have been played in Europe: many of the top players are European, most of the teams competing are European, and therefore it was a quite logical consequence. But if we look at the list of the 16 teams qualified for the September 2024 groups, we will notice that there are five teams from the American continent: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and the USA.

If it were possible to organize a grouping with four of these national teams in North America, Davis Cup would benefit immensely: a week-long event in a large arena in Canada or the USA, in a city with a strong immigrant component in which each of the South American national teams could count on a base of “local” fans, with the strong historical rivalries of these national teams (for example Canada vs USA, Argentina vs Brazil, Argentina vs Chile just to name a few) creating an incandescent atmosphere in the stands.

American players should not travel to Europe after the US Open and before the Asian swing, at that time NBA basketball and NHL hockey have not yet started, so it should not be difficult to find the availability of one of the iconic arenas in the United States or Canada. Furthermore, in this way, television broadcasters would also benefit as they would have some matches staggered by time zone instead of having four events almost all at the same time in Europe. Not to mention that American broadcasters would be able to show the ties of their own teams at more comfortable times, rather than early in the morning.

If we think about it, even American professional leagues such as the NBA and the NHL have created “divisions”, sub-groupings that require some teams to face each other more often than others, which not only limits the travel days in the very busy calendars of professional leagues but they are also designed to fuel historic rivalries in order to create an ever-increasing number of matches that can ignite the interest of fans.

The Davis Cup needs to find a similar mechanism to ensure that fewer and fewer aseptic matches are played in the echoing void of a deserted arena. In a few weeks the draw will decide the four September groups, when at least two of the three venues seem more or less safe (Bologna, Valencia and probably one in the United Kingdom). Last year the fourth venue for the September groups was Split, in Croatia, but this year Croatia will not take part in the Final stage after the defeat at home against Belgium last weekend. It will be unlikely that the ballot box will deliver an “entirely American group, but for the Davis Cup and for tennis it would be a godsend. Let’s hope the ITF can spot this enormous opportunity and acts accordingly.

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Novak Djokovic Refuses To Blame Fatigue For Davis Cup Defeat

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Novak Djokovic at the 2023 Davis Cup Finals in Malaga (photo by Marta Magni)

Novak Djokovic says his defeat in the Davis Cup on Saturday was a ‘huge disappointment’ but he isn’t taking any credit away from the performance of his opponents. 

The 24-time major winner was on the verge of taking Serbia into the final of the competition. Taking to the court after Miomir Kecmanović beat Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic knew that beating Jannik Sinner would secure his team an unassabile lead. Against the world No.4, he had a 5-4 lead in the deciding set with three consecutive match points at his disposal. However, Djokovic was unable to convert any of them and ended up losing 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. 

Then in the deciding doubles match, Djokovic and Kecmanovic lost 6-3, 6-4, to Sinner and Musetti. Resulting in Italy progressing to their first title tie in the competition since 1998. 

“Congratulations to Italy for qualifying for the finals,” Djokovic said afterward. “They deserved it. They played really well, particularly Jannik, in singles against me and then doubles, as well. He barely missed a ball the entire match.
“For me personally it’s a huge disappointment, because I take the responsibility, obviously having three match points, being so close to winning it. It’s unfortunate really. This is sport. When you lose for your country, the bitter feeling is even greater.”

It is only the fourth time in Djokovic’s career that he has suffered a loss after having match point opportunities. It is also the first time in his career he has been beaten by the same player (Sinner) multiple times in the Davis Cup. 

The defeat is a bitter end to what has been a highly successful season for Djokovic who has won three out of the four Grand Slam events held in 2023. Last week he beat Sinner to win his 98th Tour title at the ATP Finals in Turin. To put that tally into context, only Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors have won more ATP trophies than him. 

When asked if end-of-season fatigue played a role in his latest performance, Djokovic refused to find excuses. Coming into this weekend, he had won 21 consecutive matches in the Davis Cup. 

“I don’t want to talk about it because it’s going to sound like an excuse,” he said. 
“Obviously this is a tough one to swallow. I was really trying to hype myself and encourage myself for this week. 
“Throughout the entire season, my thoughts were this week with my Davis Cup team. I tried to contribute. I did in the first tie, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

As Djokovic begins his off-season, Italy will face Australia for the Davis Cup title on Sunday. It will be the first meeting between the two countries in the event since 1993. If Italy wins, it will be only the second time they have claimed the trophy after 1976. 

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Novak Djokovic At Odds With British Captain Smith Over Behaviour Of Davis Cup Crowd

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Novak Djokovic practicing at the 2023 Davis Cup finals (photo by Marta Magni)

Novak Djokovic’s comment that it is normal for fans to ‘step over the line’ during Davis Cup ties has been disputed by British team captain Leon Smith who argues that the highly animated atmosphere is a positive. 

The world No.1 clashed with a group of British fans during his country’s quarter-finals win. Just moments after beating Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4, to seal an unassailable 2-0 lead for Serbia, Djokovic was frustrated with fans during his on-court interview. Whilst speaking, he had to contend with a group of fans deliberately beating their drums.

 “Learn how to respect players, learn how to behave yourself,” the 24-time Grand Slam winner responded to those drumming before adding, “No, you shut up, you be quiet”.

During the match, Djokovic also expressed his displeasure with some of the crowd by cupping his ear and blowing kisses after winning the first set. The tie featured an estimated 5000 British fans in attendance at the event which is being staged in Malaga, Spain. 

Speaking during his press conference, Djokovic said he felt that there was ‘disrespect’ from some of those in the stands throughout his match but acknowledged that this was not unusual in the competition. Although he believes the way he reacted was justified.

“In the Davis Cup, it’s normal that sometimes fans step over the line but in the heat of the moment, you react too. You in a way show that you don’t allow this kind of behavior.” He said. 
“They (the crowd) can do whatever they want but I’m going to respond to that. That’s what happened.’
“I was trying to talk and they were purposely starting to play the drums so that I don’t talk and they were trying to annoy me the entire match.”

Reacting to the incident, British captain Smith has dismissed a suggestion that there should be a review into the policy on having drums during matches when asked if he thinks more should be done to show respect to players whilst they are playing. The former coach of Andy Murray has been in charge of his country’s team for more than a decade and oversaw their run to the title in 2015. 

“The best ones are the noisy ones. When it’s flat and dead and no one’s clapping, no music, it’s pretty boring.” Said Smith. 
“That’s one of the things that’s good about Davis Cup and the team competition that actually you’re kind of meant to make noise. And there is always, whether there is a bit that goes over, comments, I could hear a couple. I don’t think it’s that bad.”
“I would hate to see it quietening down because there’s enough quiet tennis as it is. If anything, that atmosphere is good for us.”

In the competition itself, Serbia is set to play Italy in the semi-finals where Djokovic could continue his rivalry with Jannik Sinner. The two clashed twice at last week’s ATP Finals with Sinner winning their group match before Djokovic triumphed in straight sets in the final. 

“We’re kind of developing a nice rivalry lately. I have tons of respect for him.” Djokovic said of the world No.4.
“He’s been playing arguably the tennis of his life. I saw a little bit of singles and doubles that he won. He really played on a high level. I could see that he was very pumped to play for his nation.’
“I know that he’s confident and playing some of the best tennis that we saw him ever play. But I’m not playing bad myself. So it’s going to be a great match.”

Serbia’s semi-final clash with Italy will take place on Saturday. 

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