Belgrade: France’s hopes of striking an early psychological blow in their bid for a tenth Davis Cup crown suffered a potential setback Thursday when Gilles Simon drew world number three Novak Djokovic.
Simon, ranked 42 in the world, has beaten Djokovic only once in their six previous meetings although France is hoping the hard indoor surface at the Belgrade Arena will suit his style of play.
France team captain Guy Forget said he expected Simon to go out and lay it all on the line: “Djokovic will be the big favourite. He (Simon) will have to take a few risks. It’s all or nothing.”
Djokovic said it mattered little which Frenchman he meets.
“I have to be in the best possible condition, it’s the Davis Cup final and everyone is raring to go,” said the Serb.
“I’ve always had tight matches against Gilles, except the last one (in Beijing). He’s a very patient, baseline player who forces his opponents into making mistakes so I have to find the right balance between patience and aggressiveness.”
Gael Monfils could give France the upper hand meanwhile when he opens the tie against Janko Tipsarevic.
Monfils, the world number 12, flopped at the Davis Cup last year during a playoff against the Netherlands but has been far more solid this year and beat Tipsarevic at the US Open.
French number one Monfils admitted to some pre-match butterflies, but is hoping to use them to his advantage.
“It’s crazy how much pressure you feel when you’re representing France, and tomorrow it will be even harder after hearing the Marseillaise (French national anthem),” said the 24-year-old Parisian.
“We’re all quite tense but at the end of the day we’re here to play tennis and we have to use that tension to our advantage.”