VIENNA, AUSTRIA: Jeremy Chardy may be ranked 55 in the world, but he hasn’t played like a top-60 player in the past six months.
He hadn’t won a singles match since October when he was picked for singles in this weekend’s Austria-France Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie in Hangar 3 at Vienna airport, but he ended the weekend flying high, after winning both his singles to see France through to a quarterfinal in Germany in July.
It’s tempting to imagine Chardy might originally have been ‘Chardonnay’ but has become shortened over the years – Chardonnay can be magnificent, but on occasions pretty awful, and that is the story of Chardy’s year.
At his wits’ end after defeat at the Australian Open, he was only chosen for this tie because of injuries to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet, but he has seized his opportunity with both hands, completing France’s passage with a 26 76(4) 63 63 victory over Martin Fischer.
It took the Frenchman nearly two sets to overcome severe nerves and get the hang of Fischer’s subtle game. The Austrian makes very little use of power, but strokes the ball elegantly around the court, lulling his opponent into making mistakes.
And Chardy made plenty in the first two sets. "I was very nervous," he said, "but Guy [Forget] just told me to take my time and breathe, and I started to play better."
Chardy was never behind in the tiebreak as Fischer failed to get a first serve in, and when Fischer ballooned a backhand over the French baseline to concede serve in the seventh game of the third set, it opened a run of seven games that took Chardy to the brink of victory.
Fischer fought back, but always seemed to lack the power to damage Chardy, and when the Austrian mis-hit a backhand on match point, the 100-or-so travelling French fans went wild with delight.
The match was live thanks to a remarkable fourth rubber, in which Jurgen Melzer came back from the brink of defeat to beat Gilles Simon 76(7) 36 16 64 60.
In some ways Melzer took three and a half hours to get going, or even two and a half days, given his struggle for form since his shock defeat to Chardy on Friday. But it was a remarkable transformation.
After losing a 72-minute first set in which he had three set points, Simon worked his way to a winning position. He led by two sets to one, and broke to lead both 2-1 and 4-3 in the fourth. Melzer looked a beaten man, as he was run around the court by the seemingly impassable Frenchman.
But from that 3-4 deficit, Melzer found new strength and his first real form of the weekend – and didn’t lose another game, running out the winner in four hours and eight minutes.
"The crowd kept me going," said Melzer, "they were always behind me. They pushed me through. This is important, this is Davis Cup, this is what it’s all about. I stayed tough, I dug deep. It’s a big win but it would have been a little sweeter if we’d been 2-1 up – we just have to rely on Martin now." He will be feeling it as something of a bitter-sweet victory in the light of Fischer’s defeat.
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) - 06/03/11
Martin Fischer (AUT) - 06/03/11
Captain Guy Forget (FRA) - 06/03/11
Captain Gilbert Schaller (AUT) - 06/03/11
Jurgen Melzer (AUT) - 06/03/2011
Gilles Simon (FRA) - 06/03/2011