The last title of the 2018 men’s tennis season is at stake this weekend in Lille, France when the host French team welcomes Croatia for the Davis Cup title.
France is seeking an 11th Davis Cup title, and second straight while Croatia is bidding for a second after 2005.
The home team is deep but will be without their best three players missing, though hopes will rest on the returning Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jeremy Chardy who opens play Friday against Borna Coric.
“For the last two months I was looking at so many ways, so many options, so many players,” said French captain Yannick Noah. “I had to decide whether I was putting first their spirit, their involvement with the team, their recent results, their health, so there were a lot of things coming into play.
“After looking every day at what was happening – their reactions, the sets we played – I thought that the best thing for the team was to start on Friday with these two players.”
France is deep but Croatia is top heavy with No. 12 Coric and No. 7 Marin Cilic.
“When we heard that Monfils and Simon weren’t playing and then with Gasquet pulling out, follow Yannick’s moves sometimes he has some ‘jokers’ that he pulls out of his pocket,” said Croatian coach Zeljko Krajan.
“It’s not realistic sometimes that a player should play with their ranking, but Yannick finds those guys and motivates them to play good and to win their matches. For some reason, I thought maybe Chardy would be Yannick’s ‘joker’ this week – I just hope he isn’t as successful as he’s been in the Davis Cup in the past.”
The match will take place on indoor red clay, a surface quite far from what Cilic and Coric were on last week at the ATP Finals in London.
“I believe I’m going to be fine, adjusting my play, a bit more of sliding, running,” said Cilic. “The conditions indoor clay are slightly faster than outdoor clay. I will be fine.”
France will also have the services of Lucas Pouille if needed. Tsonga is just 1-4 since coming back in September from knee surgery, so might Pouille get a chance on Sunday?
CROATIA v FRANCE SCHEDULE
R1: Jeremy CHARDY (FRA) v Borna CORIC (CRO)
R2: Jo-Wilfried TSONGA (FRA) v Marin CILIC (CRO)
R3: Pierre-Hugues HERBERT/Nicolas MAHUT (FRA) v Ivan DODIG/Mate PAVIC (CRO)
R4: Jeremy CHARDY (FRA) v Marin CILIC (CRO)
R5: Jo-Wilfried TSONGA (FRA) v Borna CORIC (CRO)
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