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30 November 2010

France content with underdog tag


NEWS ARTICLE

By 

  • Clive White

Photo: Srdjan StevanovicGuy Forget (FRA)

Pressure is always a major factor in Davis Cup and the common consensus is that it will be piled high on France at the huge, intimidating Belgrade Arena for the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final, which begins on Friday.

So it was only natural that Guy Forget’s team should attempt to turn the tables by suggesting that Serbia could be the ones under pressure from 16,000 odd of their demanding supporters.

With the world No. 3 Novak Djokovic in their side and fresh – Serbia must hope – from last week’s ATP World Tour Finals in London, where he made the semifinals, this young nation is firm favourites to carry off the Davis Cup at the first time of asking in a final.

More than that, it also has in its side one of the best doubles players in the world in Nenad Zimonjic, which was duly confirmed in London last week when he won the doubles title alongside Daniel Nestor.

France knows the opposition’s pedigree but it also knows that reputations count for little in this competition – its own 5-0 thrashing of champions Spain earlier in the year being a perfect illustration.

“If we have pressure the Serbia players might have even more,” said Forget, a man who knows a thing or two about the mind games that accompany these ties, having won this competition as both a player and a captain.

“We have been talking about the crowd and we know it can get very loud at times,” he said. “The only way to deal with it is to be quiet and forget about it. If the match gets close any Serbian player will feel the pressure.

“He is not just playing for himself, he is playing for his friend, he is playing for the whole country and if things don’t go well he will have the feeling to deceive a whole nation and that’s not easy to deal with as well.”

Forget accepted that the continued absence of his No. 1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has a 5-2 winning record against Djokovic, was “a minus”, but added: “On the other hand, these guys here made it to the finals almost without Jo. They really deserve to be in the finals.

“Jo is a strong supporter of the team and he will be here to cheer his friends. That's what matters. I know in the future he will play a very big role, he has in the past and he will in the future.”

The French team was in buoyant mood after its first workout on the medium fast surface at the Belgrade Arena and there certainly didn’t seem much wrong with its team spirit.

When it was put to Michael Llodra, the nominal French No. 2, at the first official press conference that he and Richard Gasquet did not get along, he turned to his supposedly disaffected team-mate, who was sitting alongside him, and offered a cheek in his direction: Gasquet happily planted a kiss on it.

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