Paris: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is sitting out this weekend’s Davis Cup final through injury, but will travel to Belgrade to cheer for France against Serbia as a team spirit second to none could once again help them pull off an upset.
Guy Forget’s squad have no player in the top 10 and will have to do without Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open beaten finalist. He has an injured knee.
But Tsonga will be in Belgrade lending support from the sidelines as his compatriots battle Novak Djokovic and company.
The French have a history of upsetting the big guns. In 2001, they won the Davis Cup in Australia, on grass, with Nicolas Escude beating then world number one Lleyton Hewitt.
This year, France knocked out champions Spain in the quarter-finals and Argentina in the semis, thrashing both 5-0.
Escude, now the women’s Fed Cup team captain, believes team spirit was, and still is, the key.
“To me, the state of mind is paramount,” he told Reuters, adding that despite Tsonga’s injury, France had more individual talent than ever.
Gael Monfils lies 12th in the ATP rankings while Michael Llodra has reached a career-high 23rd after beating Djokovic at the Paris Masters earlier this month, albeit on a super-fast court that favoured Llodra’s attacking game.
“In Belgrade, we will set up the court and it is going to be different,” Djokovic said in Paris.
According to Henri Leconte, a 1991 Davis Cup champion, the French team spirit can make up for it.
Leconte, who still plays on the veterans’ circuit, told Reuters: “The key is Jo (Tsonga). He has not played the last ties but he is the one starting everything. He is the one saying ‘guys, we need to go get that Cup’. This is really important.”
“The team spirit is fabulous. Despite his injury, Jo has been around from the beginning to the end,” French technical director Patrice Hagelauer said.