If the US Open is anything to go by, France’s Davis Cup team appears to be in great shape heading into their semi-final showdown with Croatia.
For the first time in 89 years, France had three men’s quarter finalists at the American Grand Slam, but now Davis Cup veteran and World No 9 Tsonga has failed to recover from the knee injury that forced him to retire in his US Open quarter final clash with Novak Djokovic. Gasquet has been chosen to replace him leaving a selection dilemma for the captain Noah on who plays singles alongside Monfils. US Open semi finalist Monfils is a shoe in and the world no 1 doubles partners of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut will surely play on Saturday afternoon, but Gasquet may still have some issues with his back and Pouille is on top form, both are in the squad and great players; it’s not a bad situation to be in for the captain.
Monfils was once again flourishing at his ‘second home’ in Flushing Meadows this year, where the 30-year-old was yet to drop a set in five matches at the US Open, and a straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory over French team mate Pouille guaranteed his passage to a first Grand Slam semi-final since 2008, where Djokovic was able to stop him one short of a grand slam final with a 3-1 victory.
France captain Noah, who is the last Frenchman to win a Grand Slam – 33 years ago no less – has included the 22-year-old Pouille, who will represent his country for just the second time when he takes to the court in the ultra-partisan Kresimir Cosic Hall, having been chosen over the likes of Gilles Simon.
Pouille should head into the Croatia clash with confidence though, having claimed the biggest win of his career last Monday in beating two-time US Open champion Rafael Nadal in a sensational encounter in the last 16, recovering from a break down in the fifth before converting his fourth match point in the tie-break to win 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6).
Standing in France’s way of an appearance in the final and a shot at a first Davis Cup title since 2001 is a Croatia side who produced one of the most spectacular comebacks in the history of the tournament in July, rallying back from a 0-2 deficit to beat the USA 3-2 on American soil.
Borna Coric completed the memorable comeback with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory after Croatia’s go-to man and former US Open champion Marin Cilic had drawn the sides level at 2-2, and it seems as though the Croats have made a habit of doing it the hard way – it took all five rubbers to overcome Belgium in the first round, too.
The tie will be Croatia’s first at home since losing a World Group play-off to Great Britain in 2013. Zeljko Krajan’s team have played six consecutive away ties since then – and have won five of them, with a 5-0 defeat to Serbia the only blip during that period.
But while Croatia possess an abundance of quality in their ranks – and the passionate home support to match – the French, as it stands, will be favourites to advance to the final, with or without their lynchpin Tsonga.