Things could not have worked out any more perfectly for the Swiss this weekend. So far. Faced with playing a back-addled Roger Federer, Switzerland stunned the 27,000 plus today in Lille by taking a 2-1 lead over France in the Davis Cup final and the doubles.
What made it even more promising for the Swiss going into Sunday was that neither Federer nor Stan Wawrinka were particularly taxed in the relatively routine straight set 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 win over Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet.
“I’m very happy, of course, that we played so well today. It’s always a pleasure playing with Stan. But I think today we played exceptionally well,” said Federer. “Nothing’s won really yet, but clearly it could be a big point.”
Stan anchored the win while Gasquet looked to be the weakest of the four. So the Swiss moved paid off tabbing Federer/Wawrinka while I don’t think France had any other choice but to play Benneteau and Gasquet.
And it’s almost a worst case scenario for the French who failed to extend Federer in either of his two matches. (At least make the old guy work, hopefully aggravating his back.) But now both he and Stan will be fresh for Sunday with JW Tsonga and Gael Monfils staring down the pressure of saving the home team by beating two Top 5 players in the world in your own backyard.
“For me I think probably a doubles is a proper test, as well, because you got to keep serve and volleying, be explosive all the time. Yeah, I’m very relieved to do that, I’m actually feeling really well,” Federer said. “So, got one more match tomorrow. I’ll try to play my best tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll feel fine again.”
That said, Federer is still not 100% but Tsonga has to be a bundle of nerves right now, especially after coming up flat on Friday – how well will he sleep tonight? JW’s a big match player and has proven that through the years, this, though, is arguably the biggest match Roger has played this decade! That’s right, this decade and maybe since his French Open title!!
So with that Davis Cup trophy on the line, I have to think Roger gets it done here. Somehow, someway. Again, the key will be Federer getting on top early thereby neutralizing the crowd and asking Tsonga to play his best under the gun.
However, if Tsonga comes out quick, like we’ve seen him do before, he could very easily run away with the match. I don’t think Roger can fall too far behind with the crowd and the way Tsonga plays.
Should Tsonga prevail, I still like Monfils to ride that momentum off the JW victory and win it for the Swiss in an absolute pressure cooker. Monfils trying to win for his country while Wawrinka ostensibly trying to win it for Roger (and Switzerland). What a match that would be. But if Federer’s back improves and he has some movement left in those aging legs, I don’t think it even gets to a fifth.
“Of course it’s going to be very, very difficult now, with a lot of hope in these doubles,” said French captain Arnaud Clement. “We have to do something big, very big. We still have a chance, and we’re going to try as hard as possible. It’s a big challenge, big challenge for us, to beating No. 2 and 4 in the world in the final of Davis Cup.
“But even if we have a little chance, we’re going to try.”
A week ago Roger and Stan were allegedly at way. Now they are on the brink of history. Funny this sport. Fun, too.
Tennis Channel will have live coverage at 7am ET.
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