Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Djoker's Wild
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Djoker's Wild 12/02/2010 - 12:58 PM

Nd What’s my prediction for the Serbia-France Davis Cup final this weekend? The only thing I’m sure of at the moment is noise. Hair-band-level noise. Reporting from the 16,000-seat Belgrade Arena this week, the Times’ Clive White wrote, “It’s debatable which has achieved the greater decibel level [in the arena]: any Davis Cup tie or the recent Guns N Roses concert.”

Still, the captain of Serbia’s opposition, Guy Forget, doesn’t sound all that perturbed. He says the atmosphere will be “warm”—thank you for making “Understatement of the Year” such an easy category in 2010, Guy. “It’s very nice,” Forget added, “it’s wonderful.” Until Friday, that is. As White points out, in his British way, the Serb fans “still have some way to go before fully understanding tennis etiquette.” God, I hope that doesn’t mean free Thunderstix, but I’m guessing it does.

The first two players to face the noise will be Janko Tipsarevic and Gael Monfils. It’s a slight surprise that Tipsarevic, ranked No. 49, holds a 3-2 career edge over the 12th-ranked Monfils, though the last time they played, at the U.S. Open this year, La Monf got him in four sets, two of which went to tiebreakers. If you have an insight into who’s going to win this one, let me know, because it looks like a toss-up to me. Monfils is the superior talent, athlete, and player, but he’s played just four Davis Cup singles matches, winning three of them. Tipsarevic is a DC lifer with a 25-10 career record in 10 years of competition. He’ll obviously have the crowd behind him (in front of him, all around him), and he’ll know this is the chance of a lifetime for his country and a chance at local immortality for him. How he reacts to all of these factors, we shall see. But I would probably go with him in the end; despite his recent Paris performance, and his strong DC showing this year at home, I still don’t trust Monfils in the big moment, against the crowd.

Whichever way it shakes out, that first rubber is going to be big, because Forget has decided to throw Gilles Simon up against the Serbs' anchorman, Novak Djokovic, rather than risk wearing out his doubles ace, Michael Llodra, on a not-as-quick-as-he-would like hard court. Djokovic is 5-1 against Simon, and to say that the Djoker will be fired up for this match, well, that might outdo Forget in the understatement of the year department. Djokovic has borne the pressure of his role well this season, and I don’t see why it would change in the final. Unless . . . unless . . . Monfils were to win the first match, in which case the crowd could prove to be a burden on Djokovic. Instead of feeling their energy, he might start to feel their nerves, the way the Argentine players felt the nerves of their fans a couple years ago in the final against Spain. You want to keep that audience working for you, because they can be a heavy burden to carry if they’re not.

The doubles will be the second crux of the tie, more so than normal because neither of the Sunday singles matches—Djokovic/Monfils, Tipsarevic/Simon—is a sure thing. Troicki-Zimonjic and Clement-Llodra are both strong teams. All four guys have winning doubles records in Davis Cup, and Llodra and Zimonjic would be dubs Hall of Famers if there were a dubs Hall of Fame. A lot depends on the circumstances going into this one. If the Serbs are up 2-0, I’d bet on them to ride the momentum home. If it’s 1-1, the French have a much better shot; at a neutral site, they're probably the better team. If the French do survive to Sunday, which I think they will one way or another, Llodra could become a bigger factor than he seems to be at the moment. Djokovic and Monfils will play first that day; as of now Simon is scheduled to go against Tipsarevic if a fifth match is necessary. That might end up being a relatively rested Llodra instead.

All of which means that the heavy pressure will reside where it should: On the shoulders of the team’s two best singles players. Monfils could very quickly turn the tie in France’s direction with a win in the opening match over Tipsarevic. Whether or not that happens, though, Serbia’s hopes will remain pinned on Djokovic. How he respnds to that should decide the Davis Cup. Three years ago, the U.S.’ hopes rode with Andy Roddick, and he won at home. Two years ago, though, David Nalbandian, Juan Martin del Potro, and the Argentines came unglued under similar circumstances in the Massacre at Mar del Plata. So it can work both ways. Djokovic has embraced the pressure by making Davis Cup the focus of his season. He says it will be the weekend of their lives. That’s a lot to put on yourself, but as I said he’s borne it well so far this season, winning all of his singles matches. However it ends up, seeing Djokovic’s crazy passion, his effort, his emotional highs and lows, his deep breaths and puffed chest, at the center of all that home-crowd noise should go down as one of the highlights of 2010. I'll take it over Guns N Roses anyday.

Serbia: 3-2


Posted by Pete R 12/02/2010 at 01:42 PM

I am surprised about going with G Simon but at his best he is right up there with the best. Llodra is a great player and on a fast surface he is top 3 in the world. P.s I wish they use more fast courts like they did in Paris it gave people like Llodra a place to shine. I am going for Fance away from home.

Posted by Master Ace 12/02/2010 at 02:21 PM

Davis Cup Final - LIVE on Tennis Channel

Serbia vs France (8 AM Fri - 9 AM Sat - 7 AM Sun)
Janko Tipsarevic vs Gael Monfils
Novak Djokovic vs Gilles Simon
Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic vs Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra
Novak Djokovic vs Gael Monfils
Janko Tipsarevic vs Gilles Simon

Posted by Master Ace 12/02/2010 at 02:24 PM

Serbia 3-2

Posted by Ross (FOE, even Gael) 12/02/2010 at 02:25 PM

I'm not a big DC fan, but this final will have my full attention.

Posted by etheralx23 12/02/2010 at 02:34 PM


Posted by What Would McEnroe Do? 12/02/2010 at 02:50 PM

Picking between two wildcards like Tipsy and Gael in a Davis Cup match? Might as well flip a coin. Probably your best chance.

Posted by reckoner 12/02/2010 at 02:54 PM

ah, guy forget...

steve, i think you need to devote an entire column to guy forgets spastic service motion leg kick

maybe a flashback homage piece or one of those youtube write-ups lol

Posted by noleisthebest 12/02/2010 at 02:58 PM

I can't wait to see Nole go ballistic the moment Serbia wins DC GO NOLEEEEEEEEE GO SERBIA!

Posted by ixvnyc 12/02/2010 at 02:59 PM

"neither of the Sunday singles matches—Djokovic/Monfils, Tipsarevic/Simon—is a sure thing"

Djokovic - Monfils lifetime H2H is 5:0. Last one at US Open 2010: Djokovic 7:6, 6:2, 6:1. And now, they are in Belgrade in front of Djokovic's home crowd, on surface which favors him (clay being more of a Monfils forte)

All of which begs the question: what exactly is your definition of a sure thing, Steve?

Posted by Fudoshin 12/02/2010 at 03:56 PM

I am guessing that Captain Forget wants Llodra to remain fresh as the doubles match is really important. Instead of wearing Llodra out over three days, it might be a better bet to have him play and win two matches.

Posted by embug 12/02/2010 at 04:27 PM

Hedge your bets through statistics, national pride, cultural mannerisms, or even the good ole Eight Ball.

'How many matches will the Serbs win,' you ask your trusty and scratched black ball with the tiny window into the future. Shake it up. Up pops a 'yes.' Bollix ... Statistics prove the past and foreshadow the future and good for you Steve that you filtered in the audience mayhem -- with thunersticks. OMG, the noise.

Looking through cultural attitudes, as if I know the French like the back of my hand, read that -- do not know-- add a slightly genteel spin surrounds the weekend with the disinclined French not quite as ravaged by attitude and nationalism as the Serbians. But, you know what, I saw those photos in the New York Times. The students in Paris rioting like crazy. But, blaming the government for increases in tuition or raising the retirement age isn't really pride or culture, it's just really funny. That's my take. Just mine.

So what's the color or name of the lens I view through. I'd say 'hunches.'

I have a hunch that France will win, but it'll take all three days and come down to the wire -- and doubles.

Doubles is a turning match in most DC ties. And just because of that perhaps the ITF should consider a Doubles Hall of Fame.

Can't wait for the noise. Oh, and the outcome.

Posted by Gina 12/02/2010 at 04:29 PM

Go Nole, Go, Go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nole is my man and I'm dying to see him win the first DC for Serbia (although Janko, Viktor and Nenad have something to say about it too). Even if my country was in the final I would support Nole. I wouldn't have it any other way. This is too important for him and I also love the rest of the Serbian players, so AJDE BOYS!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Ruth 12/02/2010 at 04:41 PM

When we were talking last week about why Federer was a logical choice as the favorite for the WTF final, I said that the way the player is performing in the days leading up to a match or major event has got to be the #1 (or the near #1) criterion in predicting how well he/she will perform, and I mentioned the way that DC and FC captains often talk about how, regardless of ranking, they chose a player for the team or for a specific match because of how he/she was playing in the practice matches in the wek leading up to the tie.

Sooooooo, I can only assume that Gilles is burning up the place during the French scrimmages and that Forget thinks that his (Simon's) hand is really, really HOT!

Go, Simon!

Posted by Mike 12/02/2010 at 07:06 PM

Where is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga?

Posted by Yolita 12/02/2010 at 07:35 PM

@Mike: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be in Belgrade cheering. He's injured, as is Benneteau.

I hope Serbia will take this. Nole hasn't talked about anything else for months!

I would support France against any other country. :)

Posted by Celine 12/02/2010 at 09:14 PM

Come on people! Give Simon some credit! Give him a chance to be the MVP. Even though he might have a low chance against djokovic, but he has a chance agai st tipseravic by winning their latest match. It is really unfair to underrate him, especially when he have just gain momentum.
No matter what, these are my 2 ideal country to be in the final, but I hope France wins.
Allez France!

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 12/02/2010 at 09:31 PM

I'm a diehard Davis Cup freak. You can blame BNP Paribas for handing out free thunderstix, I've still got some deflated ones somewhere. Most newspapers over there made promotional vuvuzelas last summer, too. It will be loud, for sure, but Serbs know plenty about tennis etiquette; Clive White sounds like a prat. Too soft for those parts!

I'm sure the home crowd will nevertheless give their guests a warm reception, perhaps especially after the hideous treatment Serbia got in Split. Nobody in Belgrade will boo during La Marseillaise!

Posted by Tim ('Hearing voices' and seeing Moonpies!) 12/03/2010 at 12:00 AM

i think tipsie might be in trouble, he does NOT beat Monfils or simon ... djoker's moment of truth arrives..

Posted by Tim ('Hearing voices' and seeing Moonpies!) 12/03/2010 at 12:03 AM

France is very smart...simon totally could win the singles and yes, llodra can carry the doubles...on a slow court, lllodra has no France is very very smart... this could be close

Posted by Team FEDAL(deal with it haha) 12/03/2010 at 12:56 AM

Really disagree with you @TIM.

I do not see Simon having a chance at all against Djokovic. No way. Djoko is too pumped. Straight sets: 7-5, 6-4, 6-1

Posted by Kim (Swiss in Brisbane) 12/03/2010 at 02:08 AM

Allez les Bleus!

Posted by Ana 12/03/2010 at 08:26 AM

Janko play what up with u

Posted by jodiecate 12/03/2010 at 10:06 AM

I think Serbia, might be close - but those "hungry" boys are at home & more likely to be fed imo.

Posted by Abraxas 12/03/2010 at 06:57 PM

Unlike what Bodo thinks, I believe Guy Forget is doing the right thing playing Simon against Djokovic, allowing Llodra to play doubles rested and, perhaps, play the fifth game if necessary. It doesn't matter who plays Djokovic the first day because Djokovic will win. Why burn Llodra then? Although it may sound harsh, it is better to burn Simon. He may not confess this publicly, but that is exactly what Forget is doing here: burn Simon for the benefit of the team.

What Forget clearly understands is that Serbia is the stronger team today and that France has little hope of beating Djokovic, so the only way they can hope to win the tie is by beating everyone else, including winning the doubles match, and finishing up 3-2. Without a fresh Llodra, beating Zimonjic and Troicki in doubles wont happen. Llodra and Clement, though, are a world class doubles team capable of beating them.

If France wins the doubles match, they put huge pressure on Djokovic to beat Monfils to stay alive. He should be able to do so, but the favorable score will greatly benefit Monfils who can play more relaxed and more aggressively. Even if Monfils losses, they go tied 2-2 to the last match and Forget can choose to play Llodra again if he wishes.

This is what Forget hopes happens:

Gael Monfils beats Tipsarevic - F1, S0
Djokovic beats Simon - F1, S1
Clement and Llodra beat Troicki and Zimonjic - F2, S1
Djokovic beats Monfils - F2, S2
Llodra beats Tipsarevic - F3, S2

France pulls the upset this way. Baring and even bigger upset of Monfils beating Djokovic, the only way France wins the tie is by winning the doubles with Llodra. Thus, Forget is doing the right thing. What do you think of this scenario, Steve?

Posted by Avec Double Cordage 12/03/2010 at 08:47 PM

great way to end with that bit of guns n roses bashing, Monfils showed some pretty strong nerves today, I think he is one of the players that can gain the most from on court coaching such as is usual in davis cup, particularly when the coach is a guy like Guy Forget

Posted by Fudoshin 12/05/2010 at 11:15 AM

Allez, Llodra.

Posted by t.ks 12/06/2010 at 02:47 AM

I do think David cup next time, the final shouldn't play at both the finalists' country. It's so boring to hear the noise interrupt the player during the serve. It's so pity for the ampire to ask and beg...and beg...beg all the audiences to keep quite. I do think this David cup is so nonsense. It's the worst David Cup ever.

Posted by Lillian 12/06/2010 at 11:39 AM




Posted by Anna 12/06/2010 at 01:02 PM

Steve, congratulations!
your predictions are usually quite off (I am not mentioninng this as a criticism, it means that tennis is unpredictable), but this one, you nailed it!

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