By Niall Clarke
- Great Britain will face France in the Davis Cup Quarter final this weekend.
- James Ward will face Gilles Simon and Andy Murray will face Jo Wilfried Tsonga on Friday.
- Play kicks of at 12:30PM BST at Queens Club.
LONDON, UK- Andy Murray will face Jo Wilfried Tsonga, and James Ward will face Gilles Simon on the opening day of the Davis Cup quarter final between Great Britain and France at Queens Club.
The best of five series will take place over the weekend of 17th-19th of July at Queens Club, with the reward a semi-final berth against either Australia or Kazakhstan.
Ward and Simon will open the tie at 12:30 BST on Friday with Murray and Tsonga immediately following the conclusion of that match.
Dom Inglot and Jamie Murray are scheduled to face Nicolas Mahut and Richard Gasquet in the doubles on Saturday, although that can be changed up to one hour before the play.
Ward’s heroics against John Isner in Glasgow helped Great Britain defeat the USA 3-2 in March to reach the last eight. The 25 year old will be looking for a repeat when he takes to the courts of Queens Club to face world number 11, Simon.
The Frenchman showed good form on the grass when he defeated Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych en route to the quarter finals. The 30 year old was brushed aside by Roger Federer in the last eight, but he still showed how well he can play on grass.
Speaking of which, Ward also had his best Wimbledon run a few weeks a go by making the third round for the first time. The Brit beat Luca Vanni and Jiri Vesely before eventually being stopped by Vasek Pospisil. The run to the last 32 also meant that Ward broke the top 100 for the first time- he is no currently ranked 89th.
This will be the first meeting between the pair, and in case you have never seen Simon in action, here is what to expect. The Frenchman likes to counter punch from the baseline and use his opponent’s power against them. Simon is an excellent retriever and is very consistent from the back of the court. His style is very different from the flair we come to expect from the French players but is equally as effective. Simon is a former top 10 player and has won 12 tournaments on the main tour. Ward acknowledged the diffculty of the task ahead of him:
Gilles tomorrow will be a tough one, I know him better than the other guys, I practice with him a lot so he knows my game jus as well as I know his. Just need to stay aggressive and try and play my game and not worry too much about him, and yeah see how we get on.
Simon also commented about how well the players know each other from practicing:
Well I practiced lot with James from the last two years because our coaches are really close so we shared a lot of practice session so I am the one who knows him the best in the team, and I know what to expect, it will be hard but I think it will be a good match.
Following that match, Murray will take to the court in which he won a title on weeks ago to face French number two Tsonga.
Murray will be in action for the first time since Wimbledon where he was ousted by an inspired Federer in the semi-finals. Can the world number three lead Great Britain to their first semi-final since 1981?
His opponent on the opening day is perhaps best known to British fans for his back to back Wimbledon semi-finals in 2011 and 2012. Tsonga is a popular player in these parts due to his charisma, charm and aggressive game. The world number 13 is a different proposition than Simon as he looks to dictate player with his powerful serve and forehand as well as excellent touch at the net- Something Murray is very aware of:
I think he’s a very good athlete, strong guy, can generate – he’s an explosive player, he can serve big, he can get to the net quickly, he can be dangerous when he’s in positions where maybe you feel like you have the advantage, he can come up with some great shots from there. He likes the grass, he likes coming forward and playing up at the net.
The things that I’ll look for is to try and play a very consistent match from start to finish. If his level drops at times where he makes a few errors, try to capitalize on that, but he’s a tough tough guy to beat on this surface.
Tsonga is capable of producing almost unplayable tennis, and his run to the Canadian Masters title last year is one of the greatest of all time. The Frenchman beat Novak Djokovic, Murray and Federer en route to his second Masters 1000 triumph. Despite that, the Scotsman has edged Tsonga 10 times in their thirteen meetings to date, including a two victories at Queens Club.
The French provide a much sterner task on paper than the USA. Les Bleus have one of the deepest talent pools on tour with ten players inside the top 100 and were the runners up last year (L. Switzerland). It will be a difficult but possible task for Great Britain and with the home crowd behind them who knows what might happen? But one thing is for sure France will come out fighting as the Davis Cup means a lot to the country, as Simon stated in the post tie press conference:
It means a lot, in history of our country and our sport and we all here at this table grew up watching Davis Cup and dream about one day winning Davis Cup on the court – yes it’s something very important for us, for our sport and our country.
Great Britain vs France kicks off on Friday 12:30PM BST with Ward vs Simon followed by Murray vs Tsonga. You can follow their progress on the Britwatchsports live scoring service: Live Scores