By Guillaume Willecoq
Sunshine, petits fours, Easter Eggs and players around the swimming-pool of the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel – welcome to the official draw of the France – USA Davis Cup quarterfinal.
The referee Andreas Egli, who is also in charge at the Australian Open, picked up the name of the players of the first rubber with French Swim Champion Yannick Agnel. The name of the selected players came off the Easter’s eggs, and the two men pick Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s name, so the first rubber on Friday will be Ryan Harrison – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, followed by John Isner – Gilles Simon.
After posing for a lot of pictures in front of the pool, the two teams came to their second news conference of the week. The French were very serious, whereas the Americans smiled a lot and US Davis Cup captain Jim Courier joked easily with the French journalists who were glad to see him back.
For USA :
Jim Courier : “It’s an honor to compete here. I’m excited about the ambiance during the weekend. It’s a bonus to play in a fantastic place.”
“We are a very zen team, very prepared.”
“The weather will be a key. The atmosphere changes the conditions of play. Yesterday was very different than today. The balls react differently, the bounce is higher with dry conditions…”
On his Harrison’s choice : “I want to be clear about it : for me, it’s not a first selection for Ryan. He was part of the team who won in Switzerland, and he belongs to the group for a long time as a sparring.”
John Isner, who beat Gilles Simon two times in a year (US Open and Indian Wells) : “It will be different. It’s Davis Cup. It’s a whole different animal than a regular tournament. He’s going to take the court very confident. I’m going to take the court very confident. Obviously it’s a different surface. Whoever plays better tomorrow is going to win, simple as that.”
Ryan Harrison : “I had a great experience of playing the dead rubber in Fribourg. Playing first or second, it’s a same. I talked a lot with Jim and I’m ready. We have a great team, a great coach and captain.”
For France :
Guy Forget : “Jo-Wilfried is a great player of Davis Cup. I count on him to bring two points this weekend.”
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, French N°1 : “I’m used to play with the pressure of being the favourite. On the Tour, I manage that all the days, and I can say I do it well ! It will be an exciting match against Ryan. For sure for him it’s going to be a special tie. I will try to be focused at the beginning and we will see how he will respond.”
Gilles Simon, about John Isner : “Our previous matches (US Open and Indian Wells) are going to help me. John is not the kind of guy who changes his game for the surface. He’s not going to play longer rallies because he’s on clay. It’s a good thing to have played him in the past… and maybe a bad thing that I never beat him !”
“The key of this match will be the return of serve, of course.”
“After only two days of practice, I feel really well. I move well, without any pain. The fact that I played the South-American tournaments helps me to adjust more easily. This tour in South America has been a bit painful, but it was a good thing to find back the tactics on clay, with longer rallies and sliding.”
The special guests section
Spotted today at the Monte Carlo Country Club : Amélie Mauresmo, great friend of Michael Llodra ; Sam Sumyk, back in France before the arrival of Victoria Azarenka for the clay season ; John Isner’s mother chatting with Nicolas Mahut ; and a lot of officials including Francesco Ricci Bitti, Jean Gachassin…
Order of play for Friday :
- First rubber at 12am CET : Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Ryan Harrison
- Followed by : John Isner vs Gilles Simon
Guillaume Willecoq is at the Monte Carlo Country Club covering the US versus France quarterfinal Davis Cup tie as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow updates here and on the twitter account @TennisNewsTPN.