By Ros Satar
LONDON, England – Arnaud Clement fields a team of players who believes can handle any surface thrown at them, as he prepares to face Great Britain at home at Queen’s club for the quarter-final of the Davis Cup.
The team comprising of Wimbledon semi-finalist Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Nicholas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert met with the press ahead of the draw, to talk about their preparations.
Last year’s finalists may be more traditionally associated with the clay of Roland Garros, but their players are no slouches on the grass, as team captain
Arnaud Clement explained: “You know for our team, to play on grass, hard court, indoor court or clay court it’s almost the same. My players are good on all surface and reach finals and won tournaments on all the surface all over the world so for us, I think they chose grass because it’s the best surface for Great Britain.”
He may have some early injury worries, as Gilles Simon was spotted limping off court an hour before the press conference, although he played down questions about his condition joking that he was in great shape and had not wanted to play anymore.
Conditions have veered between bouts of rain and sun making the rested courts at Queen’s probably a little slick.
Gasquet, who bowed out to eventual champion Novak Djokovic after a five set quarter-final against recently crowned French Open champion Stan Wawrinka gave himself a well-earned rest ahead of the tie.
He said: “I stopped three days and started again yesterday. I’m feeling great. I like to play on grass and playing well. And I’m in great shape now and ready for the weekend.”
With two of the British team also in the latter stages of the tournament, team Captain Leon Smith was quick to point out that no matter how much match research and planning he or Clement had done, it would all come down to the three days, saying: “The players are so well known. Anyway you can plan as much as you want but it will be much more down to what happens on the day and trying to react. These guys are trying to do the most important part, which is playing. It’s going to be up to us to do the best as possible on the day.”
That being said, the nature of Andy Murray’s defeat at the hands of Roger Federer on perhaps a flawless day of serving still was weighing heavy on his mind.
He said: “I still thought about it most days, yeah. I did say at the time, the guy served over 80% the first and third set. That’s won’t happen to me for the rest of the year.
“You have to look at the match and see what’s happened and analyse it a little bit and look at the tournament as a whole, and Queen’s as well and think about those things and see what I can do better in the future. It doesn’t take one day, there’s a lot of preparation goes into those events and you need to take your time. When you are finished you need to analyse what’s gone right and wrong and things you can do to improve in the future.”
There was far less bravado from the British side, but their camaraderie and results over the past few ties have helped make them a formidable unite when combined.
Murray continued: “I would say in the last couple of years, everyone’s played their part and all of the matches that have been played, obviously James has won some big singles marches. Even though Jamie and Dom didn’t get the win in Glasgow, they played a great match against the Bryan bros and I think over the last couple of years we’ve had some great performances and I think this is our level now, as a team, and this weekend is going to be a tough ask against four top grass court players. They’re all really really good players, it’s going to be a tough challenge for us but we have an opportunity win it with playing our best level.”
The draw will take place on Thursday, with play starting at Queen’s Club London on Friday.
Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.