Jo-Wilfried Tsonga knows that this year’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas has the potential to be very, very special for his native France.
The boys in blue are nine-time Davis Cup champions – joint-third on the all-time list – but though each year they enter the international team competition with one of the strongest teams on paper, Arnaud Clement’s men are on a bit of a barren spell where the top prize is concerned and haven’t won the Davis Cup since Nicolas Escude inspired them to overcome Australia in the 2001 final.
This year though, things are feeling a little different. For starters, France’s upcoming semifinal against two-time defending champion Czech Republic will be played on Parisian clay at the home of the French Open – a factor single-handedly capable of inspiring the hosts into the final, surely?
“It’s going to be a good moment in tennis [playing Davis Cup] at Roland Garros,” said Tsonga. “It’s a good place to play a Davis Cup semifinal. We have a good opponent and it’s going to be one of the best moments in our career.”
France last reached the Davis Cup final in 2010, ultimately missing out on the title when Serbia’s Viktor Troicki defeated Michael Llodra in the decisive fifth singles rubber, and they’ll be determined to earn another shot at the title by defeating the team who have won two of the three Davis Cup titles on offer since then.
“The biggest problem is [the Czechs have] won this competition two times now so they will not feel the pressure like we will feel it,” said Tsonga.
“They also have very good players. Tomas [Berdych] is in the Top 10 for a couple of years now and Radek [Stepanek] has got a lot of experience. He’s a good, talented player. They’ve got some good newcomers too so it’s going to be a good match.”
Arnaud Clement’s men have the advantage of a partisan home crowd in their upcoming tie, and 29-year-old Tsonga believes their vocal support can fuel their bid to end Czech Republic’s 11-tie winning streak in the competition.
“We will give everything,” Tsonga said. “[The crowd] is something positive for us. They give us energy to push the limits on the court so it’s going to be positive to have these crowds behind us.
“It means a lot to represent other people, other than myself," he added. "It’s good to have this identity through our country.”