Davis Cup Preview: France at Russia

Posted on July 14, 2005

The Davis Cup quarterfinals begin this weekend and Tennis-X will preview one tie each day leading to the beginning of play on Friday. Squaring off in the quarterfinals this weekend are the Netherlands at the Slovak Republic, Argentina at Australia, France at Russia, and Romania at Croatia:

France at Russia
Site: Olympic Stadium, Moscow, Russia
Surface: Clay indoors
Ball Type: Roland Garros French Open

When the two powerhouse nations face off Friday at Olympic Stadium it will be more noteworthy who is not in attendance rather than who is competing on the indoor red clay.

Marat Safin is out after electing to have knee surgery, and Nikolay Davydenko, who has emerged as Russia's claycourt specialist, is iffy with a wrist injury. France's Sebastien Grosjean is skipping the tie citing exhaustion.

"I feel tired, both physically and mentally," Grosjean told L'Equipe. "I need a break."

Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev is playing Davydenko's injury close to his chest.

"We'll wait until Thursday's draw to decide who is going to play," Tarpishchev said regarding the French Open semifinalist.

Davydenko retired during his match at Wimbledon with the wrist, but says it is merely inflammation and not ligament damage.

"I'll be ready to play come Friday and unlike Wimbledon, I'll finish the match no matter what," Davydenko said. "I can promise you that."

The injuries could leave Russia struggling with the "B"-team of Mikhail Youzhny and Igor Andreev.

France's captain Guy Forget is expected to unveil talented 19-year-old breakout player Richard Gasquet in his Davis Cup debut, alongside choke-artist Paul-Henri Mathieu, a questionable choice over veteran Arnaud Clement or former No. 1-ranked junior Gael "Force" Monfils. Clement and Michael Llodra are likely to fill the Saturday doubles role for France.

For a player making his Davis Cup debut, Gasquet is in the unique position of virtually controlling the outcome of the tie. The teen is 1-0 versus Davydenko, beating him this year on clay at Monte Carlo, 0-1 versus Youzhny in a meeting that took place 2-1/2 years ago, and 0-1 versus Andreev with a meeting last year on grass at Queen's.

In the previous meeting of the two countries, in the 2002 final, France's Mathieu choked a 2-0 sets lead against Youzhny in the fifth and deciding singles rubber.

Russia won its lone Davis Cup title in 2002, while France has won three during the Open Era in 2001, '96, and '91.