Great Britain has been the hottest country in the Davis Cup World Group during the last two years. After they won their first title since 1936 two years ago, Murray and the fellow Brits reached the semifinals last year and lost a grueling contest to Argentina. They led 2-1 and 2-1 in the fourth match, but Andy Murray lost an amazing fifth-setter to Del Potro, and then Leonardo Mayer beat Daniel Evans in the deciding rubber.
Most of the merit has to go to Murray obviously, but his peers also fared well when he was absent – Kyle Edmund, Jamie Murray, Dominic Inglot and Jamie Ward managed to beat Serbia in the quarterfinals last year. However, their job was way easier because of the absence of Djokovic and Troicki. This time, a much tougher challenge was in front of them.
France played without it’s currently best players Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, but their team was impressive nonetheless. The French no.1 was the next-gen star Lucas Pouille, backed up with Jeremy Chardy, Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau. France made it to the Davis Cup quarterfinals in 2015, and semis in 2016.
Their last Davis Cup meeting was back in 2015, when the two teams met on the grass courts of Queen’s Club in the DC quarterfinals. Both teams nominated only one player who played in this contest (Nicolas Mahut from France and Jamie Murray from Great Britain). Dominic Inglot was also nominated for that tie two years ago, but he didn’t play in any of the rubbers. This time, the contest was played in far more comfortable settings for France, on the clay courts in Rouen, France.
The first rubber saw the French number three in the ATP Rankings Lucas Pouille meet another rising star Kyle Edmund. Despite being ranked thirty sports higher than the Brit, Pouille is actually known for his inconsistency so it was definitely not an easy match to predict. After a tragic first month on the 2017 ATP World Tour (highlighted by losing to Alexander Bublik in the 1st round of the Australian Open) the Frenchman showed signs of coming back to form, and this match was definitely one of those. Although a straight setter, it wasn’t that routine. Edmund led 5-2 in the second set tie-break, but still lost the set and the whole match 7-5 7-6(6) 6-3.
In the second rubber, a struggling with form Frenchman Jeremy Chardy took one of the newcomers of last year, world no.44 Daniel Evans. The Brit had a great start to the season (fourth round in the Australian Open), but slowed down a little bit lately. Once again, he failed to bring his best tennis to the occasion, and Chardy took that opportunity winning really comfortably 6-2 6-3 6-3 and giving France a 2-0 lead after the first day of the tie.
Both teams had excellent doubles teams, with Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot playing against Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau. Although not playing together on a daily basis, both teams had some successes together in the past. The match turned out to be really tight, with both teams holding set points in the first set, which was finally won on the second occassion by the French pair. The Brits soon leveled, but it was Mahut and Benneteau who were clutch enough in the important moments to finish the match and the whole tie: 7-6 (7) 5-7 7-5 7-5. The fourth set featured a crazy rally where Mahut actually managed to return a ball from the stands.
Having already clinched the tie, French captain Yannick Noah (1983 Roland Garros winner) decided to let Benneteau play singles in the dead rubber. He was crushed by Daniel Evans 6-1 6-2. The dead rubbers are mostly played for fun, they do not mean anything and are not always played according to the rules.
In the last rubber Jeremy Chardy met Kyle Edmund and won 6-4 6-4 despite being down 1-4 in the third set. The final score was 4-1 in favour of France, but the tie was obviously already decided on Saturday when the home team clinched the 3-0 advantage.
France showed that despite also missing some important players they have a lot more players to pick from. The leaders not playing doesn’t bother them as much as Murray’s absence bothers Great Britain. France will meet Serbia in the Davis Cup semifinals on 15-17 September.
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