France moved to within one rubber of an eighth consecutive victory over Germany in the Davis Cup. The team gained a comfortable 2-0 lead after Day 1 at Frankfurt’s Fraport Arena, although the host actually want to take revenge on France after they also lost in last year’s quarterfinal 2-3 in Nancy.
Germany’s new Davis Cup captain Michael Kohlmann led the way for Philipp Kohlschreiber to return to the team as the squad’s number one player. A new national eligibility rule implemented by the International Tennis Federation, has become a problem for Dustin Brown. It allows players to represent only one country at Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Olympics during their careers. Previously, players could represent a different nation if they were citizens and had not played for their prior state for two years. Brown, who was born in Germany and raised in Jamaica with a Jamaican mother and a German father, came up on the tennis circuit with few resources and has switched to playing for Germany, where funding and sponsorship opportunities are greater. But he played Davis Cup for Jamaica as a teenager, and until recently, he was not ranked high enough to be a candidate for the German team. Kohlmann, however, wanted to nominate the world number 99 for the tie in Frankfurt but the ITF refused the start and consequently doubles specialist, Andre Begemann, made it into the squad alongside Jan-Lennard Struff and Benjamin Becker.
French captain Arnaud Clement had to find his team without having the possibility to count on two of his top players. Richard Gasquet withdrew from the Davis Cup last week due to an injury. The world number 25 retired during his match against Roger Federer in Dubai with back problems. The world number 13 and therewith France’s top-ranked player, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, has already pulled out of this year’s Australian Open and hasn’t been able to play a single match this season due to an arm injury. Gael Monfils actually had indicated that he was not planning to play in Frankfurt, changed his mind and was named for the team together with Gilles Simon, Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau.
In the opening rubber in front of 5.000 spectators, Team France’s new number one, Gilles Simon, defeated Jan-Lennard Struff after four hours and 24 minutes winning 7-6, 2-6, 6-7, 6-2, 10-8. The 23-year-old German, who made his Davis Cup debut, fired 17 aces but also hit 99 unforced errors and eventually lost his service in the 18th game of the final set. The world number 14 closed the match with a stylish finish, as he serves and then volleys to eventually celebrate with his blue bench. Simon continued his good form he had already shown on the ATP World Tour this season capturing the title in Marseille in February.
“Kohle (Michael Kohlmann) told me that I have to play aggressively, what I did in the early stages of the match,” Struff told afterward about his match plan. “I gave everything but unfortunately Gilles was simply better than me today. Nonetheless, I wanted to thank all the fans for the fantastic support today. The atmosphere was great,” said the world number 74.
Simon felt relieved afterwards: “It was a very difficult match. There is always a winner and a loser but in an encounter like today it’s better to be the winner, as in such a huge fight it would have been bitter for me to lose,” the Frenchman said. “Struff played a tremendous match. I played as good as I could but I often got slapped on court by him. To lose the third set was hard for me but I managed to keep my positive attitude. The victory feels good because I think that I deserved to win. I wanted to give everything for the team and invested a lot in terms of preparation and so I am happy about the way I acted on court today,” the 30-year-old told after giving France the 1-0 lead.
Gael Monfils was in control of the second rubber beating the host’s number one Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 in two hours and 19 minutes. The German had to withdraw from the ATP tournament in Dubai last week due to fever and didn’t seem to be in his best physical condition. It was obvious that Kohlschreiber wanted to give his best against the Frenchman but made too many unforced errors when he overcooked a couple of important baseline shots. Monfils fought back from 2-5 down in the second set for a 2-0 lead and converted his first match point in the tie-break of the final frame hitting his 17th ace.
“I simply have to accept the fact that Gael played great today. His service is like a machine,” said Kohlschreiber. “I had to fight hard for every point, as I didn’t played my best tennis today. Only in the second set, he gave me a chance but I couldn’t capitalize on my 5-2 lead,” the 31-year-old German added and would be ready to play the doubles on Saturday: “If I am nominated, I’ll play.”
Kohlmann, however, wasn’t sure about his final nomination. “Right now, on Friday at 9:45 p.m., I will still go with Becker and Begemann but of course we will discuss all possibilities tonight,” Germany’s Davis Cup captain told and hopes that his team will be able to achieve a comeback the same way as France did last year in Nancy.