Gael Monfils goes into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final as France’s top ranked played, and captain Guy Forget will be looking to the 24 year-old for another big performance against Serbia in Belgrade.
He took over as the French No.1 when last week’s rankings were released, leapfrogging compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who has been plagued by a knee injury for most of the year.
That ranking jump followed a runner-up finish for Monfils at the Masters event in Paris, where he defeated three Top 10 players – Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Fernando Verdasco – before bowing out against Robin Soderling in the final.
Monfils also enjoyed success on home soil in Montpellier in October, winning his third career title after victories over Tsonga, John Isner and Ivan Ljubicic.
In addition, he has recorded two further runner-up finishes in the second half of the year, as well as reaching the last eight at the US Open.
The significance of his quarterfinal defeat in New York was that it came against Novak Djokovic. The Serbian No. 1 cruised to a straight sets victory and stretched his unbeaten record against Monfils to five matches.
Injury aside, the two players will meet again in the fourth rubber in Belgrade, and the result could go a long way to determining the final destination of the Davis Cup trophy in 2010.
Serbia is hoping – and probably expecting – Djokovic to win both his singles matches, so it would be the perfect time for France if Monfils could break his duck against the world No. 3.
Monfils also trails Janko Tipsarevic in their head-to-head series and he has never previously met Viktor Troicki. The two players are competing for the second singles spot on the Serbian team, while Nenad Zimonjic provides his doubles expertise.
Considering the mature Davis Cup performances from Monfils during the current campaign, it’s hard to believe that he only made his first appearance for France at last year’s World Group play-off tie against Netherlands.
He suffered a shock loss to Thiemo de Bakker in his debut rubber, but this year has been a different story with the Frenchman remaining unbeaten during the team’s opening three ties.
The deadline for nominations is on Tuesday when both captains will name their line-ups for the Final. Serbia’s side has been the same all year and no surprises are expected, but Forget has a few options despite being without the injured Tsonga and Julien Benneteau.
Monfils and Michael Llodra’s performances in the early rounds have cemented their places in the team, leaving the remaining two places up for grabs with the likes of Gilles Simon, Arnaud Clement and Richard Gasquet all hoping for a call-up.