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03 April 2013

France not favourites, insists Tsonga


Photo: Antoine CouvercelleJo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has shrugged off any advantage France might have on paper ahead of their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal against Argentina and insists there is little to separate the two nations.

The world No. 8 heads to Parque Roque alongside No. 9 Richard Gasquet, No. 27 Julien Benneteau and No. 61 Michael Llodra, a side which looks, in ranking terms at least, to have too much for Argentina's squad of No. 19 Juan Monaco, No. 39 Horacio Zeballos, No. 71 Carlos Berlocq and No. 128 David Nalbandian.

History also favours the visiting nation. France has won all five of its previous clashes with Argentina, including their most recent meeting in the World Group semifinals in 2010, but Tsonga is adamant that the tie has the potential to be a very close affair.

“We are not favourites for the moment,” insisted Tsonga. “You still have Nalbandian, who [has] won some big tournaments in the past. When you have a champion like this, [the ability] stays forever, so I think for one match [he could be] very dangerous. And then you have guys who are very [passionate], like Berlocq, to fight for their country.

“It’s going to be a good match between two good teams, and I think there is no favourite in this one. Maybe [Argentina] has the advantage because [they] play at home.”

France is seeking a place in the semifinals for the third time in the last four years, having lost to USA on home soil in last year’s quarterfinals, while Argentina is gunning for a fourth successive semifinal in the competition.

French players have arguably enjoyed better form in the run up to the tie. Tsonga reached the fourth round in Miami last week and compatriot Gasquet progressed to the semifinals, while Berclocq, Monaco, Nalbandian and Zeballos all lost in the second round or earlier.

“I don’t know if it’s something positive or negative to lose early [in Miami],” Tsonga pondered. “They are still very good players and they will stay very good players. They will have time to go back and play on a clay court and get used to it."

The 27-year-old Frenchman, who holds a 37-24 career win-loss record on clay, is hoping to hit the ground running on dirt after 10 months away from the surface.

“I haven’t played on clay since Roland Garros last year," he added. "It’s going to be tough to get used to it.”

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