Their sluggish victory against Japan forces the French to beat the Serbs if they want to join the quarter-finals of the competition.
"Now, the more matches we win, the more the stadiums will be full and the more we will play matches more in line with what we know. " After the controversy of an entry in the running in a visual and sound desert unworthy of a competition which is said to be the heiress of the Davis Cup, Nicolas Mahut wanted to hope that this show "Sullen" no more than a bad mirage.
For the second match of hens of France, Thursday, November 21, the Angevin should see his theorem be verified. Because if the supporters of the Blues still boycott the competition, two ingredients change the deal: after Japan, the team of France faces Serbia Novak Djokovic on Central Caja Magica Madrid.
The rest of their stay in Madrid is written in conditional form. The 2-1 win against Japan sentenced the French to beat the Serbs if they wanted to win the quarter-finals. In conceding a point with the defeat of Gael Monfils against Yoshihito Nishioka (5-7, 2-6), the Blues had already mortgaged their chances of finishing in the top two second pool, in case of defeat against Serbia. But the first set dropped in tie-break by Mahut-Herbert (6-7, 6-4, 7-5 win), after a series of 18 races won in a row, between Bercy and the Masters, simplified the equation, reduced to an unknown.
"We go there with a knife between our teeth"
«On the set average (The two best runners-up are determined by the number of wins and, if necessary, the difference in sets), it's sure that it will be complicated so we will have to win the meeting, we have no choice ", summed up Mahut. On paper, the mission promises to be delicate. The captain, Sébastien Grosjean, does not minimize it: "It's a big challenge because we play the number two world with all he represents, all his victories, and also his love for the shirt. It will be complicated but I have confidence in the team, we will go to fight. " Same martial language from the French number two, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: "We go there with a knife between our teeth. There is room. Djokovic has an exceptional record, but we must not blush ours. You have to go and think that it's a tennis player like any other. We come out of this first meeting with a lot of confidence, I did a very good match, the guys in doubles made a performance. "
Serbia captain Nenad Zimonjic was reassuring Sunday about Djokovic's state of health, who had complained of right-sided pain after his defeat last week against Roger Federer at the London Masters. . On Wednesday, for his entry in the running, the world number two gave the point of victory to his team with a score in line with his standards against Yoshihito Nishioka (6-1, 6-2). He confirmed that he felt "Very well physically".
"The good thing about this new competition is that the last time we played Serbia there was no Djoko (in semifinals in September 2017), says Herbert. That's what the organizers wanted, change this competition for the best ones to play it. "
Monfils in a hurry to be on vacation
But who to challenge him? Logic would have wanted the number one, Monfils, to stick to it, but the Parisian did not convince Tuesday for his return to the Blues after three years of absence, passing by his subject in large widths. Worse, he even appeared a little later before the press begging his captain not to align him: "It's a team sport and being on the bench is not a punishment, on the contrary. I will not have a hard time supporting the team. If Benedict (Pair) has more weapons than me? Today, yes. It's hard. I had a very good season but I do not finish well. It's complicated, I have a lot of mental fatigue because I try to be good and I can not do it, so a break will do me the greatest good. "
Behind his number one, the Serbian selection has other assets with Dusan Lajovic (33e world player) and Filip Krajinovic (46e). Veterans Viktor Troicki (33 years old, 159e) and Janko Tipsarevic (35 years old, 232 years old)e) are not to be taken lightly in doubles but the French pair remains on an eloquent series: since they have set the table this summer, Mahut and Herbert have won 13 games out of 14, won Bercy and the Masters. "We're going to bet on the simple because Herbert-Mahut, it's the best pair of the moment, we expect them to win the match", Djokovic was anticipating on Wednesday.
"It will be up to us to create the feat, Herbert answers him, but now thanks to the girls and the Fed Cup (win in Perth against Australia on November 10) we believe that everything is possible! "
Or how the collective is once again very useful to try to hide the individual misery of French tennis this season.
The format of the new formula
Like a football World Cup, 18 teams are divided into 6 groups.
- The group stage takes place during the first four days of the competition and confronts 18 teams: the 4 semi-finalists of the previous edition, the 12 nations that have won the qualifying phase and 2 countries invited by the International Tennis Federation. Each nation plays 2 games of 3 matches (2 singles and 1 doubles) in 2 winning sets.
- The six groups of three teams are: group A (France, Serbia, Japan), group B (Croatia, Russia, Croatia), group C (Argentina, Germany, Chile), group D (Belgium, Australia, Colombia), Group E (Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Great Britain), Group F (Italy, Canada, United States).
- The six nations that won the group phase and the two best second places (determined by the number of victories and, if necessary, the difference in sets) qualify for the quarter-finals. Shifts take place on Friday, semi-finals on Saturday and the final on Sunday. As in the group stage, the matches are played in 3 matches (2 singles and 1 doubles) in 2 winning sets.