Skeptical Of France's Decision To Contest Davis Cup Final
France selected clay as the surface for its Davis Cup final
against Russia, which makes French Open semifinalist Marat Safin
believe the Russians can bury the defending Davis Cup champions
on the dirt in Paris. The Davis Cup final will be staged November
29th-December 1st at the same Bercy arena that is currently
hosting the BNP Paribas Masters on carpet.
Questioning the choice of clay as the surface for the final,
Safin suggested red clay is not conducive to the style of most
French players and that France made the move in the mistaken
belief the Russians were most vulnerable on clay.
"I don't know why they chose the clay," Safin said.
"I think they are trying to use it against us, but it also
doesn't suit them. They don't really have clay-court players.
France's best clay-court player is Sebastien Grosjean, who reached
the Roland Garros semifinals last year and advanced to the quarterfinals
this year where Safin crushed him 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
With Paul-Henri Mathieu suffering from rib and abdominal injuries,
French Davis Cup captain Guy Forget will likely select either
Arnaud Clement or Nicolas Escude to join Grosjean as a singles
starter. Neither player has enjoyed much success on clay: Escude
is 4-7 lifetime at Roland Garros and was a first-round casualty
to Fernando Meligeni this year, while Clement owns a 4-6 career
mark at the French Open.
"(Sebastien) Grosjean, he can play on every surface, (Nicolas)
Escude, he can play on clay, but he's dangerous on grass and
fast indoor courts," Safin said. "Clement, he can
play , but we have the same пїЅ we have no problems playing on
The tournament runner-up on the red clay at the Tennis Masters
Series-Hamburg in May, Safin is an accomplished clay-court player
whose game was molded on the red clay of Valencia, Spain where
he trained from the ages of 13 to 19 after moving from his native
Moscow in seach of better facilities.
The 22-year-old Safin is trying to help friend and teammate
Yevgeny Kafelnikov conclude his career as a Davis Cup champion.
Kafelnikov, who captured the French Open crown in 1996, has
repeatedly stated his desire to retire should he help Russia
win its first Davis Cup championship in history.
"I'm getting a little bit tired of tennis and all the time
being on the tour," Safin said. "But (after Shanghai)
we will have two weeks to prepare ourselves for the Davis Cup.
I think we have a chance to win here in Paris. It would be a
great present for myself and Yevgeny. If he wants to retire,
then he can retire."
While Safin insists the surface suits the Russians, French captain
Forget may have been influenced by Kafelnikov's abysmal clay-court
spring season as well as the fact that Safin can sometimes struggle
against speedy counter-punchers such as Clement and Grosjean.
The French may be hoping Safin will implode in impatience, but
one objective observer пїЅ top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt, who was
a member of Australia's 1999 Davis Cup championship squad &151;
said Safin is capable of carrying Russia to victory on clay.
"Marat is such a great player he can win a tie off his
own racquet," Hewitt said. "But I'm sure Guy Forget
is very happy with the squad he has got. I guess Grosjean is
their only top 10 player, but you only have to look at how many
guys could have got a wildcard here this week to know how strong
the squad is. The slight advantage they've got is playing in