Tennis: Gael Monfils kicks off Davis Cup war of words

Frenchman Gael Monfils and Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia traded blows in a verbal rally yesterday, the eve of their Davis Cup final opener.

Monfils started off by suggesting his bearded opponent may struggle with the huge expectation on his shoulders after being chosen ahead of the higher-ranked Viktor Troicki.

"I think he will be very nervous coming out first in front of the Serbian crowd," the world No 12 told reporters of a player better known for his wrap-around sunglasses and Dostoyevsky quotations tattooed on his left arm.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I will try to be very relaxed and play my game. Of course there is pressure but that's all part of the game," added Monfils, who is undefeated in his team's run to a 16th Davis Cup final.

Tipsarevic, given a singles slot behind world No 3 Novak Djokovic, who will face Gilles Simon in today's second rubber, laughed off Monfils's comments. "If Gael thinks I'm going to be more nervous than him in front of 18,000 Serbs he better think again," said the recently-married Belgrade resident who made his Davis Cup debut for the former Yugoslavia in 2000.

"Of course we are both under pressure and he is no doubt a very good Davis Cup player, but I honestly don't think he can be completely relaxed in front of a passionate home crowd."

World No 49 Tipsarevic clinched Serbia's place in the final for the first time with a decisive victory over Czech Radek Stepanek in September.

That tie also took place in the imposing Belgrade Arena, which has become a fortress for the home team.

With Djokovic enjoying a 5-1 career record against Simon, including a comfortable victory in Shanghai recently, French hopes of a tenth Davis Cup title will rest heavily on Monfils giving them a flying start.

"I'm happy to play first," Monfils said. "If I bring the first point in it will put more pressure on Novak and Gilles can play a better match if we're 1-0. So I think it's good for the team."

France captain Guy Forget had toyed with the idea of playing Michael Llodra or Arnaud Clement as the second singles player in the absence of the injured Jo Wilfried Tsonga, but elected for Simon who has played just three ties in the competition.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Llodra and Clement will team up for tomorrow's doubles rubber against world No 30 Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic.

Forget, who has Richard Gasquet as "fifth man", said he was blessed with more options than counterpart Bogdan Obradovic - suggesting Serbia are relying on Djokovic.

"One of our strengths is Tsonga was our number one player and hasn't played the last two matches," Forget said.

"These guys have been able to make the finals without Jo. I don't know if Serbia could have gone to the finals without Novak."