New-look France, with rookie Arthur Fils, finds itself at the foot of the mountain in the Davis Cup, from Tuesday to Sunday against Switzerland, Australia and Great Britain, host of a tough group in Manchester.
Captain Sebastian Grosjean's Les Bleus will have a lot to do to get out of a group whose nations have accumulated 49 titles, probably the most dense and balanced, and finally find the quarter-finals of the team competition, a plateau more reached since 2017.
To achieve this, the federation introduced new faces, including that of rising star Arthur Fils, 19, credited with a very first title in May, in Lyon on clay.
In Manchester, the games will be held indoors and on hard, a surface which seems to suit Adrian Mannarino and Ugo Humbert more, the two best French people in the ATP rankings, 34th and 36th respectively.
Mannarino, the most experienced at 35, should guide the French troops for the three days of competition, each comprising two singles then a doubles, in theory.
The double could be decisive and the Blues are well armed for that.
Édouard Roger-Vasselin (39 years old), never lined up in the Davis Cup, is having a flourishing year in 2023 with three titles, including a Masters 1000 (Miami), with the Mexican Santiago Gonzalez. He will be associated with the dean of the team, Nicolas Mahut (41), a regular at the event he won in 2017.
Murray et son public
The French launch their marathon on Tuesday, from 2:00 p.m., against Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka, a priori the least tough opponent of the week. At 38, the Lausanne resident will notably team up with Dominic Stricker, eighth finalist at the last US Open, with whom he won the Gstaad tournament in July.
On Thursday, we will have to cross swords with Australia, finalist of the 2022 edition, their best performance in the Davis Cup since the last of their 28 titles, acquired in 2003 against Spain.
The number one threat will come from Alex de Minaur, currently 12th in the world, the best ranking for an Australian in 17 years. This year, the 24-year-old won in Acapulco, reached the final of three other tournaments, and exited the US Open in the round of 16 against finalist Daniil Medvedev. In doubles, there will also be serious clients with Matt Ebden and Max Purcell.
On Sunday, the Blues will face the Manchester public and a strong Great Britain team around Andy Murray, winner in 2015 and former world No.1, associated with Cameron Norrie (17th in the world), Dan Evans (27th) and Neal Skupski (N.3 in the world in doubles).
The top two teams in the group will advance to the final eight-team tournament from November 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.
To get there, the Spaniards will have to battle against Serbia, the Czech Republic and South Korea, in Group C (in Valencia), without being able to count on Carlos Alcaraz. The 20-year-old prodigy gave up on the group stage, not considering himself ready to scrap “physically and mentally” after his defeat in the semi-final of the US Open against Medvedev.
Too bad for the spectacle, there will be no showdown against Serbian rival Novak Djokovic, whom he beat in a thrilling final at Wimbledon in July.
Davis Cup, group stage. Group A (in Bologna): Canada, Italy, Sweden, Chile. Group B (in Manchester): Australia, Great Britain, France, Switzerland. Group C (in Valencia): Spain, Serbia, Czech Republic, South Korea. Group D (in Split): Croatia, Netherlands, USA, Finland.