Davis Cup: France beat Britain 4-1 as GB search for strength in depth continues

 

By Ros Satar, in Rouen

  • Dan Evans def. Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-2 (with help!)
  • Jeremy Chardy def. Kyle Edmund 6-4 6-4
  • France win the tie 4-1 and will face Serbia at home for the Davis Cup semi-finals
ROUEN, FRANCE – Although the Brits were playing for pride, was this the day the ‘dead rubber day’ died after the French threw in some high jinks to close the tie?

 

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Dan Evans def. Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-2 (with help!)

One of the doubles heroes for the French was substituted in for Lucas Pouille for the first of the reverse singles, but the match would take a twist that raised a few chuckles, eyebrows and potential questions about the concept of a dead rubber.

Having ripped through the first set in a spare 20 minutes, Julien Benneteau (who may have not been on the ‘vin rouge’ last night) was then joined by his doubles partner Nicolas Mahut, and captain Yannick Noah, helping Benneteau to an additional game, to the delight of the crowd.

The ITF tie referee drew the line at allowing the top cheerleader of Stirling University’s Barmy Army Jamie McDonald from joining the Brit to even the score, and while the crowd loved every second of it, the fact remains that currently this still counts as a valid clay court win.

It does, though, raise questions about whether dead rubbers should count – an issue that has to date prevented Slovenian-born Brit Aljaz Bedene from being able to take up a racquet for his chosen country having represented Slovenia in Davis Cup ties, in dead rubbers.

GB Captain Smith said, after the tie: It’s a bit of a conundrum. Because on the one hand actually, Kyle and Jeremy were pretty much going at it and working on things. This is a little bit more unique because actually you’re getting ready for clay season so there’s a bit more to be had, so replacing a practice on Monday with this is probably better.

“But there is going to be a ton of situations where it’s just no fun for anyone. So we know that – but I think they’re talking about different ideas. Maybe you name a junior in the team. Not part of the tie proper but if it is a dead rubber a junior gets to play, I think that’s a good move, or an under-21 player or something like that, legends event, – there’s different ways to do it, but yeah today was a great atmosphere but this nation’s quite unique in their love for tennis that way.”

For Evans, who has been proud of his ability to avoid the dirt thus far in his career, it is possibly too early to figure out whether the past couple of weeks in the Davis Cup cocoon has helped set him up for a pretty ambitious clay court swing.

He said, after his trouncing of Benneteau, Mahut and Noah: “Still a work in progress, really. I might not even win a match until the last week, I might win two the first week and none the rest of the time.

“I mean every practice sessions are different, I hit the ball differently and then one day’s good one day’s bad. I didn’t hardly hit the ball because [Chardy] was hitting it by me. It’s just difficult. Sort of different tennis. I have to learn how to play on it.

“It’s hard, I mean the ball’s heavy, it’s not going the same as it would on a hard court. Just don’t feel that comfortable.”

 

Jeremy Chardy def. Kyle Edmund 6-4 6-4

There might have been a little singing and dancing on Jeremy Chardy’s part along with the French fans and the wonderfully rehearsed We Are Tennis Fan Academy but there were no similar shenanigans as he was all business in dismantling Kyle Edmund.

After failing to convert on the first break point chance of the match, Edmund then relinquished his own serve, and at least made Chardy work for the first set, finally taking it on his third set point.

Edmund put up some spirited resistance, breaking and building up a 4-1 lead before losing five straight games to round out a weekend of highs and lows, as befits the Davis Cup and all its traditions.

 

The search for the conveyor belt continues

The Davis Cup closes its doors to Great Britain for another year, with the team maintaining its position in the World Group, and leaves us wondering whether the planned overhaul by the ITF will bring the top players back again. Yet that is just one problem that we face, the other being the folllow through from the success of our current crop of players for the future.

Smith made it clear that his aim is not to change this team, but the fact remains France have a great structure for nurturing talent, while Great Britain still lags behind.

Smith offered his thoughts on the work still needing to be done, saying: “The big difference in our nation compared to the big hitters like France who have 19 in the Top 200 – we’ve got four in the Top 100 and then that’s it. None in the Top 200.

“This team’s a great team. I don’t need Davis Cup players. It’d be nice to have more selection-wise but it’s nice to have [some] joining these guys on tour, who are sitting around 75, even 125, 150 – you know it just means you’ve got more of a conveyor belt coming through. And do I think it’s around the corner? Maybe with a couple of them but there’s certainly not a conveyor belt.

“It’s something continually needs addressed. It’s always a thing that’s debated. Is it down to performance teams, is it down to our club culture… [shrugs] you can keep going. But it’s just an endless debate but the bottom line is it would be nice to have more depth.”

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