Frances chooses clay for Davis Cup final

The French Federation has chosen red clay as the surface for the Davis Cup final against Croatia in Lille, France.

It sounds like a decision meant to trip up the opposition’s top player, in this case Marin Cilic. Which can be a slippery slope. Cilic made the semis in Rome and the quarters in Paris this year.

The Twitter account @jeusetmaths points out the last five times the French played a final on clay, they lost – most recently against Switzerland in 2014.

The French beat Belgium on a hard court in Lille last year.

Lille to host Davis Cup final – again

If you didn’t have complete faith in the integrity of the French Tennis Federation, you’d think their decision to host every major recent Davis Cup tie in Lille, near the Belgian border, was a case of … favoritism.

The federation announced Friday that the French will host Croatia in what could be the final “home” Davis Cup final, Nov. 23-25 at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

That’s where France defeated Spain last weekend. And where they played both the semifinals and finals in 2017. And the 2014 final.

The FFT did switch things up in February, going to Albertville for the first round.

Paire’s emotional Davis Cup debut

It took until he was 29 years old for Benoit Paire to finally made his Davis Cup debut.

And he made it count Friday. 

After a rough start, Paire rolled over injured Spaniard Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, to give France a 1-0 lead in its World Group semifinal tie.

Paire was emotional during the national anthem, for this high-water moment in his career.

“I just wanted to prove to everyone that I could behave myself, fight to the end, and never give up,” Paire said.

Lucas Pouille won a five-setter to give France a 2-0 lead.

For juniors, a trophy – and a million Euros

The French Tennis Federation is handing out one million Euros ($1.17 million US) attached to the junior “Trophée International Philippe-Chatrier.”

The FFT will distribute the funds to the countries proportionatee to their results in the junior events.

Spain won the boys’ race in 2017, followed by Hungary. Canada was 24th out of 27.

Russia topped the girls’ charts with 7.680 points. Canada was second.

The well-funded “Slam nations” – U.S., U.K. and Australia – are ineligible. 

This rather homogeneous group of federation representatives (sans kids) was at Roland Garros Monday to receive the 2017 trophies – and the checks.

French Open adopts quick-tennis rules

As the other Grand Slams have done, beginning with last year’s US Open, this year’s French Open will quicken up the warmup period.

There will be one minute allowed between the arrival on court and the coin toss, a strict five-minute warmup, and one minute before the first serve must be struck.

The between-points time will be extended to the WTA/ATP standard 25 seconds, up from the unrealistic 20 seconds in previous Slam years.

And yes, there will be shot clocks.

They will play no-let in the qualifying, as well as the junior events. 

Davis Cup documentary full of emotion

The French Tennis Federation has produced a half-hour documentary of the Davis Cup squad’s journey to the big trophy.

It had been more than 15 years since the French – despite producing quality players generation after generation – had been able to lift the “saladier d’argent“.

And the pressure was amped up to 11.

In the end, under the second-year captaincy of Yannick Noah, the team led by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got the job done.

The relief was palpable. The emotions ran the gamut.

Even if you don’t understand what they’re saying, you can still feel it.

Behind the scenes with Team France

As the French Tennis Federation went behind the scenes in the 24 hours before the country’s last, best hope to win the Davis Cup once more, there were some interesting tidbits.

For one thing, Gilles Simon is there (eating some off-season pie), in support of his teammates although not even on the six-man preliminary list that was cut down to four final selections.

We could go back and forth on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s latest ‘do. Early returns are: thumbs down. 

The outfit is taken under advisement.

Job posting: Davis Cup finals mascot

If you are “at ease relating to the public”, and want to get into the Davis Cup finals between France and Belgium (a tough ticket), have we got a job for you!

The French Tennis Federation is seeking a mascot for the three-day event Nov. 24-26.

Commitment and an exemplary manner also are required qualities. Previous mascot experience is a plus.

Apply here. There are no salary specifications. Tennis ability also seemingly is not required.

While we’re not 100 per cent sure what the mascot looks like, a Google search turned up this “FFT Chicken”.

FFT donates to Irma relief – now, Maria

Last Friday, the French Tennis Federation announced the creation of a solidarity fund to benefit the victims of Hurricane Irma.

Irma basted the French islands of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy. The federation kicked in 500,000 euros, looking to increase it with the help of its leagues, committees and clubs.

Tennis authorities in Guadeloupe, which hosted the France v Canada Davis Cup tie last year, were charged with allocating it restore damaged tennis facilities.

Now, with Hurricane Maria blasting Guadeloupe itself, the money will be needed even more. And more will be needed. 

How to be a tennis nation, by France

It takes generations for a country to build a great tennis culture. But it helps if you have top players for them to emulate.

It’s even better if you invite a 4,000 kids to watch them practice, as the French Federation did with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille in Lille ahead of its semi-final Davis Cup tie with Serbia.

They’re playing the tie on (indoor) clay, even if that’s a surface most haven’t played on since the French Open. No Djokovic, Troicki or Tipsarevic for Serbia.