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Davis Cup: France’s team against the Italian trap

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT – | Lucas Pouille (d) poses with his teammates of the Davis Cup after the single face of the Dutch Robin Haase, February 4, 2018 in Albertville

Without the “neo-Musketeers”, the French team took the gamble to tame the impetuous Fabio Fognini and his troupe on Friday in Genoa, in the Davis Cup quarter-final, in a context marked by the disputed reform of the International Federation.

This 2018 campaign was already special for the title holders as it is Yannick Noah’s last on the captain’s chair. It is even more so since the International Federation (ITF) presented at the end of February a project for a complete overhaul of the venerable team event, born in 1900.

If the proposal is validated mid-August in the United States, it will be the end of all the ingredients that have made the salt: home and away games and format to the best of five sets, much to the chagrin of Noah and his team, opposed to the project.

The ITF wants to organize the Davis Cup for a week in November next year and wants to try to lure the best, who tend to snub, with a big check ($ 20 million prize money). It would become then an “exhibition without interest”, estimates the N.1 of Blues Lucas Pouille.

“The Davis Cup is not playing a week but that’s what we’re doing right now,” insisted the 11th World, who skipped the Miami Masters 1000 to better prepare on clay for the high-risk duel in Liguria.

Led by the whimsical Fognini, talented but often overtaken by his mood swings, Italy is not a simple obstacle to pass, especially on the ocher earth. And Noah can not count on his most experienced players.

– Tsonga operated, injured Gasquet … –

For the first time since 2004, none of the “neo-Musketeers” was selected, even if only as a fifth man (reservist).

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was operated Tuesday of the left knee, Richard Gasquet, is also touched at one knee. Gilles Simon is experiencing a new crisis of results. As for Gael Monfils, he suffers from the back but Noah, because of the difficulties previously encountered with the Parisian, had anticipated his withdrawal.

Forced to change, the captain bet on Jérémy Chardy (80th), back in shape, as asset N.2 at the singles, rather than Adrian Mannarino, ranked higher (25th). “It was quite easy as a choice, because Jeremy’s game fits more naturally to the clay,” said Noah, who “avoided” talking to David Haggerty, the president of the ITF in Genoa, because always “very angry” about the reform.

After the inaugural duel between Apulia and veteran Andreas Seppi (34, 62nd) Chardy will challenge Fognini (20th world). The whimsical transalpine had always been superior (4 wins) until their last duel at Indian Wells, where Fognini, frustrated, let himself go to insults, including “Fuck you!”. “Frankly, in my career, I’ve heard 100 times worse,” says Noah.

– Reunion between Chardy and Fognini –

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – CHARLY TRIBALLEAU – | Frenchman Jeremy Chardy wins against Englishman Daniel Evans in Davis Cup on April 7, 2017 in Rouen

“Fabio, I know him well, he can go through all the phases and I’ll have to stay focused on myself,” warns Chardy, who is unbeaten in the Davis Cup with five all-time wins on clay (indoor), the last ones a year ago against Britain.

A performance of the Palois and a victory of Apulia would give the opportunity to the accomplices Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut to seal the outcome of the meeting on Saturday in doubles. “We do not want the adventure to stop here for our staff and for this competition which is in great danger,” said Mahut with the hope of winning a semi-final at home in September.

It would be against Germany or Spain, strengthened in Valencia by the return of the world No.1 Rafael Nadal.

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