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01 December 2010

Meet the players


NEWS ARTICLE

By 

  • Ed Pearson

Photo: Srdjan StevanovicSerbia and France

Novak DjokovicNovak Djokovic (SRB)

Probably the best known of the players on the Serbian team, world No. 3 Novak Djokovic knows he carries the weight of home expectation on his shoulders this weekend.

Such is the burden of a man who is unbeaten in Davis Cup singles rubbers this year and who has had the most consistent year of his career on the biggest stage. He reached at least the quarterfinals of all four Grand Slams for the first time and made the final at the US Open.

Since his appearance at Flushing Meadows, Djokovic has looked in superb form. He won the title at Beijing and also reached the final at Basel, as well as the semifinals at both Shanghai and the end-of-year ATP World Tour Finals, losing to Roger Federer all three times.

The only worry for Serbian fans is the blot on their No. 1’s copybook at Paris last month. Djokovic lost to Michael Llodra, who could well be facing the Serb on the other side of the net this weekend.

Viktor TroickiViktor Troicki (SRB)

The 24-year-old from Belgrade has finished the season strongly and is making Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic’s decision who to name as his team’s No. 2 all the more difficult.

Troicki won his first ATP World Tour singles title at Moscow in October and backed that up with a solid showing at Basel where he lost to his teammate Djokovic in the semifinals.

He started the year well in Davis Cup, earning the first point for his country against USA’s John Isner, but has failed to win another singles tie in the competition.

What he would give for another chance to taste victory on the biggest stage.

Janko TipsarevicJanko Tipsarevic (SRB)

The hero of the semifinal victory against Czech Republic has a habit of raising his game for the big occasion.

Tipsarevic might only just be ranked inside the Top 50, but he defied that number against Andy Roddick at this year’s US Open, beating the home favourite in four sets, before showing his tennis muscle against Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek in the Davis Cup semifinals.

Fully rested after a postponed honeymoon, Tipsarevic could well be the key to victory for Serbia this weekend. There is no doubt he will be called upon, be it in singles or in doubles, and he will do his best to give the crowd something to cheer about.

Nenad ZimonjicNenad Zimonjic (SRB)

The closer the tie in Davis Cup, the more important the doubles rubber becomes. And every side in the world would want the experienced Nenad Zimonjic on their team.

Not only is Zimonjic the most experienced Davis Cup player on the Serbian team, but he has also just hit the best form of his year.

The doubles specialist is partnered on the ATP Tour by Canadian Daniel Nestor and the duo have been in fine fettle since winning the doubles title at Vienna in October.

They may have lost in the final to the Bryan brothers at Basel, but they exacted their revenge at the year-end ATP World Tour Finals, defeating the American twins en route to picking up the coveted title.

The oldest player on either side at 34, this could be Zimonjic’s last chance to win Davis Cup.

Gael MonfilsGael Monfils (FRA)

France has a new No. 1 in town. Gael Monfils has officially overtaken Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as his country’s top-ranked player and Serbia will be keen to nullify his influence.

Monfils, who is known for demonstrating his athleticism on court, has taken his game up a gear since reaching the US Open quarterfinals, where he lost to none other than Novak Djokovic.

The Frenchman won on home soil in Montpellier and also reached two further finals at Tokyo and, most recently, Paris.

He has won all three of his singles rubbers in Davis Cup this year and goes into this weekend’s tie looking for his first victory on foreign soil.

Michael LlodraMichael Llodra (FRA)

The genial Frenchman could hold the key to his country’s fortunes this weekend. He is unbeaten in five Davis Cup rubbers so far this year and could well be called upon to play in both singles and doubles.

Is French captain Guy Forget asking too much of the 30-year-old Michael Llodra?

There’s no denying he is in the form of his life. His victory over Novak Djokovic in Paris last month saw him reach the semifinal of an ATP-1000 event for the first time and boosted his singles ranking to a career-best No. 23.

He has won two singles titles this year ­­– at Marseille and Eastbourne – and he made light work of Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych in the first round at this year’s US Open proving he is more than capable of a big scalp.

Arnaud ClementArnaud Clement (FRA)

The most experienced member of the French team will be desperate to make a contribution on court this weekend.

Not just for the simple reason that he is passionate about his country winning Davis Cup, but because he has been named on the initial list to play in the Final on two previous occasions only to be replaced at the last minute both times.

Arnaud Clement is unlikely to feature in the singles this weekend, but he could link up with Michael Llodra in the doubles as was the case in France’s semifinal against Argentina in Lyon.

The French duo also played together in Paris last month, losing to a certain Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic.

Gilles Simon

Gilles Simon (FRA)The former Top 10 player has been plagued by a right knee injury this year, but has still managed to find some of the form that saw him peak at No. 6 nearly two years ago.

He won the title at Metz in September and reached the semifinals at Valencia in November, but has yet to contest a live Davis Cup rubber this year.

He is unlikely to feature on either of the first two days, but the fact that French captain Guy Forget has a player of Gilles Simon’s calibre in reserve shows the strength in depth from which he can pick his team.

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