Davis Cup final 2014: Tsonga, Gasquet, Clement focus on prize not Federer

The French Davis Cup team are focusing on the final and not any other headlines

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis

If the back of Roger Federer was the primary topic of conversation at the Swiss team’s pre-Davis Cup press conference—that, and his relationship with Stan Wawrinka—then the French press conference was little different.

For while half the questions put to Arnaud Clement’s squad of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet were about the clay court that has been built inside Lille’s vast Stade Pierre Mauroy, the other half were about Federer.

And the French were having none of it.

Asked about the rumoured fight between Federer and Wawrinka, Tsonga retorted: “Well, I didn’t read about all this, about what happened during the week. I don’t really know. I don’t really want to know either. The important thing for us is to stay focused on ourselves, on our team. What we need is to have a perfect performance. What we can do is just play tennis. Anything else is not really our business.”

Asked whether they had contingency plans for Federer not playing, the squad was just as adamant.

Clement: “For the time being, we are not thinking that Federer will not play on Friday. We have been preparing for 10 days, and we are prepared to play the Swiss team with Federer and Wawrinka. Many people asked questions about Federer, even before he pulled out on Sunday. But what we are going to play is not Federer’s team, it is the Swiss team. They have good players. This is the reason we are preparing for the past 10 days because we want to be at our best to beat that team, which is the favourite for the time being.

“Now, as I said yesterday, the physical condition of Federer is unknown to us. What we need to do is prepare the best we can until the last day, until the last practice session, and we’ll see who we’ll have to play. But I know they will do everything they can so that Roger will be totally fit for Friday.”

Tsonga: “When you play tournaments, it happens: Sometimes you don’t know who you’re going to play for the next match. Whatever happens, you adapt. We are used to that kind of thing. If things were to change on Friday, I will adapt. I’m used to it.”

Assuming Federer is fit to play come Friday, he can expect to face some of the most demanding tennis of his season against two players who have had their fair share of success against him.

Good friend Tsonga beat Federer, 7-5, 7-6 in the final of the Toronto Masters in their last match this August, and the Swiss came close to defeat on the clay of Monte Carlo, too, coming back from a set down and a tight tie-breaker to win the third, 6-1. Notably, Tsonga also beat Federer on French clay, at last year’s Roland Garros, in straight sets.

Monfils came within a hair’s breadth of a huge win over the Swiss in one of the matches of the year in the US Open quarter-finals this year. Federer came back from two sets down and two match points in the fourth set to seize a five-set, 200-minute victory. And Monfils took the Swiss to three sets in Cincinnati, too, and beat him in Shanghai last year.

Thus far, though, Federer has won all their clay encounters, and Monfils has also had to overcome injury issues—though he assured the French media that he was fit and ready: “I feel pretty good. I’m feeling better and better. If I had to play, I would be at 100 percent, no problem. No problem.”

Incidentally, Benneteau—who reached a career-high ranking of 25 this week—has also caused Federer problems: He too led the Swiss by two sets to love at Wimbledon 2012, and beat him in Rotterdam last year.

As for Gasquet, he has twice got the better of Federer on clay, and led Wawrinka two sets to love at Roland Garros last year before losing, 6-8 in the fifth. Meanwhile, Tsonga and Wawrinka exchanged five-set wins at the French Open in 2011 and 2012, and shared their only two meetings last year, both on clay, both in three sets.

But all the French can do is wait and see. Clearly the Swiss will be up for the fight whoever takes to court come Friday. But neither side will have any illusions about the importance of Federer: His presence could mean win or lose for both.

Team Nominations

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, ranked No12
Gael Monfils, ranked No19
Julien Benneteau, ranked No25
Richard Gasquet, ranked No26

Roger Federer, ranked No2
Stan Wawrinka, ranked No4
Marco Chiudinelli, ranked No212
Michael Lammer, ranked No508

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