France – Switzerland 2014 Davis Cup final: the recap

My first Davis Cup tie was the historic final between France and Switzerland. And what a rollercoaster of emotions it was: the excitement when it was annonced Lille (my hometown) would stage the tie, the disappointement when I wasn't able to buy tickets, the relief when I managed to buy tickets. And the rest is history: Tsonga played despite an arm injury and blamed the crowd for his loss, Gasquet was overwhelmed by the events, half-dead Federer miraculously resurrected and played 3 best of five matches in 3 days, and Wawrinka led Switzerland to her first Davis Cup victory.
Despite the disappointment I'm happy to have been part of that crazy weekend; it might sounds cliché but the Davis Cup's atmosphere is really like no other! Here's the story of my first Davis Cup experience:

Friday, November 21. Day 1

I usually travel hundreds of kilometers to watch live tennis, so it was a strange feeling to leave home, take the metro, walk about 10 minutes and be there in front of the Stade Pierre Mauroy, ready to attend the much expected Davis Cup final between France and Switzerland.
It’s kinda ironic that’s the only times I’ve been to a football stadium were to attend rugby matches (when I was a volunteer for the rugby World Cup in 2007) and tennis matches.

Stade Pierre Mauroy

Stade Pierre Mauroy, Davis Cup 2014

Stade Pierre Mauroy, Davis Cup 2014

Despite the queue, it only took a few minutes to enter the stadium. And here we are:

Stade Pierre Mauroy
The transformation from football field to tennis court is pretty impressive (videos below), don't you think?

First big moment of this unforgettable weekend: the teams’ presentation and the national anthems:

Wawrinka defeats Tsonga 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2

I look at the giant screen and I have a bad feeling: I see Tsonga’s face, he looks scared, exactly the same face he had just before his semifinal disaster against Ferrer at Roland Garros last year. Unfortunately, I was right…
3 meters behind the baseline, the French number one can’t do anything to counter Wawrinka‘s powerful groundstrokes. He just can’t pull a ball in the court and keeps making errors after errors after errors. A really bad start for Tsonga. Wawrinka wins five straight games to clinch the first set 6-1.
Things look a bit better for Tsonga in the second set, he is more aggressive and Wawrinka starts making a few errors here and there. Second set for Tsonga 6-3, a little hope for the French fans.
Wawrinka breaks in the sixth game of the third set and leads 4-2. Tsonga then saves two set points at 2-5. Tsonga and the French crowd are on fire... But it only lasts two minutes, the Swiss wins the third set and leads 2 sets to one. An early break for Stan in the fourth set, Tsonga looks resigned and nobody believes in a win from behind. Game, set, match Wawrinka 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2. Switzerland leads 1-0.

2014 Davis Cup, Tsonga vs Wawrinka
2014 Davis Cup, Tsonga vs Wawrinka

Tsonga’s game was bad but his attitude was worst, he kept complaining for nothing, looked at times completely lost, and the only excuse he found for his non-match was that the crowd didn’t support him enough. Seriously… Too much pressure on his shoulders? Too much expectations? Visibly still bothered by his right arm injury (he kept saying “J’y arrive pas” to captain Clément during the changeovers), he perhaps should have been preserved for Sunday’s reverse singles or perhaps Tsonga wanted to play this final at all costs because he missed the Belgrade final in 2010? In any case it is too late to change the course of the final now.

Monfils defeats Federer 6-1 6-4 6-3

30 minutes later it’s time for Federer and Monfils to enter the court. There had been much talk about Federer’s back injury during the week, his first serve is at 207km/h, the case is closed. A completely different match from the first rubber and a completely different atmosphere: Monfils is on fire from first point on and so is the crowd! First set Monfils 6-1.
He keeps the pressure on Federer in the second set: solid serve, powerful forehands, and 6-4 for Monfils. Monfils leads two sets to none and I start thinking: please Gael, don’t go nuts!, because the last time both players met, at the US Open this year, Monfils led by two sets to none, wasted 2 match points in the fourth set, only to lose in five sets. This time, no regret for the Frenchman who is rock solid on serve: 6-1 6-4 6-3 in less than two hours.

2014 Davis Cup, Monfils vs Federer
2014 Davis Cup, Monfils vs Federer

When you watch Monfils playing like that, so focused, you can only ask yourself: what if? What if he had a coach? What if he had a more professional attitude? What if he had taken time to improve his technique. He probably would have been a top 5 and a perennial Grand Slam contender. I guess we’ll never know…

Saturday, November 22. Day 2

Federer/Wawrinka defeat Benneteau/Gasquet 6-3 7-5 6-4

At 1-1 after day one, I was pretty sure the pair of Tsonga and Gasquet would beat the Swiss, and then Federer would win over Tsonga on Sunday, and the winner of the deciding rubber between Monfils and Wawrinka would offer the Davis Cup to his country. How wrong I was… French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was in fact injured, and Benneteau teamed up with Gasquet to face Federer and Wawrinka.
As a French supporter this doubles match was a nightmare: Gasquet was totally lost on court, Julien Benneteau did all he could to help Gasquet, and Arnaud Clément was completely useless. Straight sets victory for the Swiss, with a monster performance by Stan Wawrinka.

At 2-1 for the Swiss, I knew it was already over and I would watch Federer’s win over Gasquet on TV. What a disappointment.

2014 Davis Cup, France vs Switzerland
2014 Davis Cup, France vs Switzerland
Sunday, November 23. Day 3

Federer defeats Gasquet 6-4 6-2 6-2

Bothered by a right arm injury, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdraws from the first reverse single. He is replaced by Richard Gasquet who can’t do anything to prevent Federer from winning his first Davis Cup. The match was broadcasted on a giant screen in the center of Lille.

2014 Davis Cup, France vs Switzerland

2014 Davis Cup, France vs Switzerland

2014 Davis Cup, France vs Switzerland

2014 Davis Cup, France vs Switzerland

Hoping you enjoyed the read. What did you think of the final? Have you ever attended a Davis Cup tie? Please share your thoughts.

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