December 2, 2010

It's Not Over Yet

Sure, most of the action on the men's Tour is over for the year, but we've still got the Davis Cup finals this weekend, and this year things could get pretty interesting.

First-time finalist Serbia takes on France, making its first appearance at the championship tie since 2002, and both teams boast players who've made quite a statement in recent months.

France has actually won the Cup nine times, third on the all-time champions' list, but six of those wins came before World War II. They put in a nice showing earlier in the decade, led by the likes of Nicolas Escude and Sebastien Grosjean, but these days they have a fighting chance to reclaim the title. They began their 2010 run by blanking two-time defending champion Spain in the quarters and doing the same to 2008 second-place finishers Argentina a few months later.

Though one of their top players is sitting out this weekend, Gael Monfils, a winner in Montpellier and a runner-up in Paris, is riding high on the momentum of six wins over top-twenty players -- including Andy Murray and Roger Federer -- in about a month. And Michael Llodra, who had his own miracle run in Bercy, has fought his way to #23 in the world, his highest career ranking. Adding Metz champ Gilles Simon and Arnaud Clement to the list, and you might see some big wins this weekend.

But Serbia is making its first appearance in the finals, and given their roster of players, you might wonder what's taken them so long. Helmed by world #3 and London semifinalist Novak Djokovic, they have a Grade-A team. Viktor Troicki, who nearly stopped Nole's New York run in the first round, and Janko Tipsarevic, who vanquished Andy Roddick in the U.S. Open's second round round out the singles field. And World Tour Finals doubles champ Nenad Zimonjic promises to bring the power that's kept him in that discipline's top five for two and a half years.

Play kicks of Friday with Tipsarevic taking on Monfils, the man who pushed him out at Flushing Meadows. Still, they've split wins in their four previous meetings, so it could be Janko's turn to get ahead. Djokovic follows with a rubber against former top-ten Simon, a man he's beaten in five of their six match-ups. I don't expect him to cede that advantage on his homecourt.

In my view, it seems like Serbia is the favorite to win their first Davis Cup this weekend, but if we've learned anything this year, it's that nothing is for certain. But I have a feeling this championship won't be quite as one-sided as they've been in the past few years.

And the result might just usher in a new era of regional domination in men's tennis.

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