Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau defeated Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers 6-0 6-4 7-6(6) to seal France’s place in a second consecutive Davis Cup final.
The French pair wasted no time in making their mark on the match as their returning was unstoppable in the first set. The Spaniards were playing as a team for the first team and it showed as they showed a lack of communication throughout the contest.
The story of the match was how well Benneteau was playing as the French veteran came out of immediate retirement to play this match. From phenomenal backhands to tweeners, Benneteau had it all going on as he lead the French team to the first set in 15 minutes.
The second set was much better from Lopez and Granollers on serve as they finally got on the board and built some steady momentum. There was concern in the second set as Lopez accidently hit the ball onto his own face as he needed an ice pack to heal his cheekbone throughout the match.
Despite the visitors’ good serving they couldn’t make the breakthrough and the one break of serve was enough for the hosts as they were within touching distance of another final. After a much needed toilet break, the Spaniards eventually came to life with a break to love helping them to a 3-0 lead.
The French pair looked frustrated as Granollers started to play better in the third set as they looked on their way to forcing a fourth set at least. However their poor communication proved costly as Lopez failed to pounce on a volley as the third set was back on serve.
Some resilience from the Benneteau and Mahut duo forced a third set tiebreak as the Spaniards looked frustrated at what had just occurred. The tiebreak provided moments of drama as Granollers seemed to drag this match as long as possible with some stunning backhands.
Eventually though Benneteau wasn’t to be denied as a stunning backhand saw the veteran with tears down his face as he sealed France’s place in the Davis Cup final for a second year in a row. The 36 year old was arguably the man of the match as on his final year on the tour, he secures France’s place in history.
As for Spain it’s a case of what could have been as injuries to Rafael Nadal, Pablo Carreno Busta, Fernando Verdasco and Marc Lopez didn’t help their cause and Bautista Agut’s five set loss yesterday was the final nail in the coffin. However progress has been made for Spain despite the loss as it is the first time since 2012 that they reached the semi-finals of the Davis Cup.
France will now play Croatia or USA in the final in November. The win over Spain means it is the first time they have reached back-to-back finals since 2002.
Gael Monfils Omitted From French Davis Cup Squad But May Still Play
French captain Sebatian Grosjean also admits that he wishes the competition would change back to its original format.
The French tennis federation (FFT) has unveiled their provisional team for the upcoming Davis Cup Finals and as it currently stands their highest ranked player has not made the cut.
Gael Monfils has not been selected by team captain Sebatian Grosjean who said his decision was made following a conversation the two had. The world No.21 has been taken out of contention and replaced by world No.28 Ugo Humbert in a team composed of both ‘old and new’ players. Humbert is set to be joined by Richard Gasquet, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Nicolas Mahut and Arthur Rinderknech for the 18-nation competition which will be held across three European cities.
“I spoke with Gaël, he understands my choice. It’s my choice,” Grosjean told reporters on Monday.
However, Monfils has not been completely ruled out of the squad with the captain suggesting he could make a late change if he produces good results in his remaining tournaments. So far this season Monfils has achieved a win-loss record of 15-16. His best result on the Tour was last month when he reached the final of the Sofia Open before losing in straight sets to Jannik Sinner. He is currently 0-3 against top 10 opposition this year.
“The regulations allow us to change three names one month before the competition so everything can change but my choice for now is the one I told you,” Grosjean commented.
Monfils has played in a total of 14 Davis Cup ties between 2009-2019 with a win-loss record of 12-3.
France was the one of the last countries to play a Davis Cup final before the competition was turned into a weeklong event. Former world No.4 Grosjean, who played in three Davis Cup title ties during his career, says his team will fight for another victory but admits he would like to see the old format return.
“It’s the formula, we’re going to play it and continue to represent the French team as best we can,” he said. “But if, in the future, it were possible to return to the “home and away” formula, it would be great.
“I’m the captain, I don’t make any decisions about the system. But to have experienced these atmospheres, it’s very special to go to Austria, especially as there are people (Dominic Thiem) absent.”
The Davis Cup Finals will get underway on November 25th. France has been drawn in the same group as the Czech Republic and Great Britain with the winner progressing to the knockout stages. They will play their group matches in Innsbruck.
Note: quotes via Tennis Majors/We Love Tennis
Tennis Stars Voice Concerns Over Staging Tokyo Olympics
After being delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, top players such as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori still have reservations.
Japan’s top male tennis player Kei Nishikori has questioned how much preparation the IOC and local officials in his home country has prepared for a ‘worst-case’ scenario of hosting the Olympics.
The four-year event has already been postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some have called for the sporting extravaganza to be scrapped. Recently governors of nine Japanese prefectures said there should be an option to suspend or even cancel the Olympics altogether if cases in the region can’t be kept under control. Three of those governors are in charge of cities set to stage Olympic events.
Weighing in on the debate, former US Open finalist Nishikori raises doubts over how organisers plan to hold a safe event given the high number of athletes that will be present, which is an estimated 11,000. Japan has already said that overseas fans are banned and international athletes will not be able to bring relatives with them to minimise the risk.
“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”
The world No.45 expresses a view similar to the of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka who said earlier this week that she was ‘not sure’ if the event should go ahead due to the current case numbers.
“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”
In the latest figures published by health officials, Tokyo reported 925 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which is an increase of almost 400 compared to the previous day. Although Monday figures are usually low due to the closure of testing centres over the weekend. Tuesday’s number is higher compared to this time last week (609 cases) and two weeks ago (828 cases).
Besides the COVID-19 concerns, the prospect of having to go to the Games without a member of family could result in the absence of four-time gold medallist Serena Williams. The former world No.1 says she is undecided on playing the event and hasn’t been separated from her three-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours before.
“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” said Williams.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.
“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”
Besides athlete concerns, Olympic organisers are also facing falling public support. A recent poll conducted by newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that nearly 60% of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled. Furthermore TBS news reported 65% of people surveyed in another poll wanted the event either cancelled or suspended again, with 37% supporting the cancellation and 28% in favour of suspension.
The Olympic tennis event is set to start on July 24th.
Top Tennis Tournaments Among 97 Events UK Sport Hopes To Host Over The Next Decade
A plan for the ‘greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments’ in the UK has been published and tennis is among the sports officials are interested in.
The government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport within Great Britain has said they could submit an application to host two team tennis events over the next decade.
UK Sport has labelled both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup Finals as an ‘opportunity’ for them to host in their 10-year strategic plan which will last until 2021. Overall the country is looking at the possibility of staging 97 events across 44 sports over the next 10 years. Those behind the plan believe such a move could generate a total of £7 billion for the UK economy. A live feasibility study is already underway for bidding to host the 2030 football World Cup, 2026 European Athletic Championships and more.
“Together we have achieved so much in Olympic and Paralympic sport. Nevertheless, we are very aware there is no room for complacency and that we must build on our success to create the next exciting phase of high-performance sport,” UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said in a statement.
“One where we work even more collaboratively and inclusively to keep winning and win well, in ways that will inspire more people and have a broader impact on our society.
“Achieving on the world stage will still sit firmly at the heart of what we do. But we should not underestimate the powerful platform that provides us with, and it is our shared responsibility to better harness this for positive social change.”
When it comes to both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, UK Sport has categorized them as a mega event. Meaning they are ‘seen as the pinnacle of their sport at World level and which have significant staging costs, attract more than 100,000 live spectators, entail considerable delivery complexity and require extensive public funding and guarantee commitments.’ At present they have been labelled as an ‘opportunity’ by the agency. Meaning that no decision to bid to host them has been made yet but remains a good possibility.
The government made no reference to what venues could be used, especially regarding the tennis events which will require more than one court due to the change of the tournament in recent years. The finals of the team events now last for a week or so and are done initially in a group format before turning into a knock-out stage.
This year’s Davis Cup finals are taking place across three European cities. However, the women’s equivalent remains in doubt after the ITF ended their contract with the Hungarian Tennis Association who were meant to be holding the event. Hungary recently sent a letter saying it was no longer feasible to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK is best known for its staging of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships, as well as other grass-court events. Furthermore, it also experienced great success in hosting the ATP Finals between 2009-2020 which attracted more than 2.8 million visitors during that period.
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