STUTTGART, GERMANY: You can play lots of tricks with statistics, but however the numbers stack up, history is against Germany in this weekend’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal against France.
The two teams have played three times in the past 15 years, and the Germans have not won a single live rubber. The last time France lost a live rubber was in 1953 at Roland Garros, and the last time the French were beaten by their neighbours from across the Rhine was in 1938 in Berlin. The head-to-head between the two teams reads 6-2 for the French, with the Germans’ only other win coming in 1914.
Yet France’s captain Guy Forget isn’t fooled by such numbers. “We could win the first three matches all in four or five very close sets, and then people will say we’ve won comfortably,” he said after the draw on Thursday.
“But if the matches are close, as they have been in the past, then they could very easily go the other way and Germany could have been 3-0 ahead by Saturday night. That’s why we’re taking nothing for granted.”
Despite his caution, Forget is captain of the favourites this weekend. His three singles players – Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – are all ranked higher than Germany’s No. 1, the 20th-ranked Florian Mayer.
Tsonga’s heroics at Wimbledon, where he beat Roger Federer in a five-set quarterfinal to rise to 14th, have counted against him playing on the opening day, as Forget felt Tsonga needed longer to recuperate, so the captain has gone with his higher-ranked singles players, Monfils at No. 7 and Gasquet at No. 11.
With Gasquet’s name drawn out of the hat, it sets a projected line-up for the weekend of:
R1: Florian Mayer (GER) v Richard Gasquet (FRA)
R2: Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) v Gael Monfils (FRA)
R3: Christopher Kas / Philipp Petzschner (GER) v Michael Llodra / Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
R4: Florian Mayer (GER) v Gael Monfils (FRA)
R5: Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) v Richard Gasquet (FRA)
But if the French are clear favourites, they are aware they’re up against a German tennis nation that’s enjoying its best year for a decade. Most of the headlines have been made by the female trio of Andrea Petkovic, Julia Goerges and Sabine Lisicki, but the men have done well too, with Mayer returning to the top 20 and Kohlschreiber and Petzschner playing out an all-German final of the tournament in Halle.
Kohlschreiber, ranked No. 42, reached that final by beating Monfils, the player he will face on the opening day here. Yet the last time they played in Davis Cup was last year in Toulon, when Monfils won in three sets to set France en route to its 4-1 win.
“I think we can’t count that,” says Kohlschreiber of his win on the grass of Halle, “it’s a different surface, and in Davis Cup it’s a different kind of pressure. We know it’s going to be a very tough tie, and we know the history. We are going to do our best to change the future – that’s the only chance we have, as we cannot change the past.”
The tie is being played outdoors at the Weissenhof Club in Stuttgart, which hosts an ATP tournament next week. The weather forecast is a little dubious as rain is forecast for all three days, but with enough dry spells in between to suggest the tie can be completed on time.
Watch this tie live at: DavisCup.tv
Florian Mayer (GER) - 07/07/2011
Richard Gasquet (FRA) - 07/07/2011
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) - 07/07/2011
Gael Monfils (FRA) - 07/07/2011