ROQUEBRUNE CAP MARTIN, FRANCE: French No. 1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will face teenager Ryan Harrison in the opening rubber of France’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal showdown against the visiting American team on Friday. Gilles Simon will take on towering John Isner in the second rubber.
Hosted for the first time at the picturesque Monte Carlo Country Club, the French have home advantage but underdogs USA could yet pull off a surprise win. Harrison, who will be making his live Davis Cup debut is not showing any sign of nerves: “I think that obviously it's something both people have to deal with (playing first),” he said. “I think either way, playing first or second, it's the same for both players and we'll both be prepared. I think I have the advantage of being a practice partner a couple years ago, also being a part of that fantastic tie we had in Switzerland.
Tsonga know what to expect and thinks the fact that the French are playing at home will be a big bonus for him and the rest of the team. “He’s a young player and he improved a lot in the last couple of years and it’s going to be a good match and he will give everything on the court, I know that, but I will try to play my best tennis in this match.”
“We are playing in France and the Club is part of France and of course we enjoy the place, the weather,” said the No. 1 Frenchman. “I hope it will be okay and it will be a good weekend of tennis.”
The doubles rubber has Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau playing the Bryan twins Bob and Mike. Bob is making his return after sitting out the first round against Switzerland because of the birth of his baby daughter Micaela. The reverse singles has Tsonga and Isner, the two No.1’s first up and the tie will close with Simon and Harrison.
The eloquent French Davis Cup captain Guy Forget says the key to the weekend will be not to get frustrated. He noted that neither team has had much lead-in time on clay, so both the French and Americans are in the same boat.
“Clay is frustrating at times because you hit thinking you hit a winner and it’s not a winner, you may need four shots to win the point,” Forget said. “You can have bad bounces, you have to slide when you get tired and you don’t want to slide as much and after a couple of hours it gets mental.
“It’s difficult, but hopefully my players will have a little edge in that perspective but John (Isner) is a great player – he beat Roger Federer a few weeks ago in the first round in Fribourg,” continued the French captain. “That was very impressive – he’s got a lot of experience now. He’s a very talented player.”
“Jim is a great captain. He’s going to find any weaknesses we have on our side so I look forward to a very exciting and tough match.”
And speaking of Jim Courier, the savvy American captain says that USA’s monumental 5-0 sweep of Switzerland in the first round does not add pressure to his team.
“While we are very proud of what we did in Switzerland, this is a totally different task and a different opponent,” Courier said. “Also, we are a different team as well. Mardy (Fish) is not here, Bob (Bryan) is here, Ryan and John and Mike are here so we’ve had a couple of changes.
“I wish it was as simple as saying we could keep that momentum but with the format of the Davis Cup now you don’t keep that momentum and we have to recreate it and that’s fine. We are absolutely the underdogs and that’s fine. We don’t mind playing as the underdogs.”
The full draw is listed below:
R1:Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v Ryan Harrison (USA)
R2: Gilles Simon (FRA) v John Isner (USA)
R3: Julien Benneteau / Michael Llodra (FRA) v Bob Bryan / Mike Bryan (USA)
R4: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v John Isner (USA)
R5: Gilles Simon (FRA) v Ryan Harrison (USA)
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Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (USA) - 05/04/2012
Captain Jim Courier (USA) - 05/04/2012
Ryan Harrison (USA) - 05/04/2012
John Isner (USA) - 05/04/2012
Captain Guy Forget (FRA) - 05/04/2012
Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra (FRA) - 05/04/2012
Gilles Simon (FRA) - 05/04/2012
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) - 05/04/2012