LILLE, France (AFP) – Honours were shared between France and Switzerland in the Davis Cup final in Lille on Friday on a day when Roger Federer suffered his worst ever defeat in the tournament.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion, playing in his first Davis Cup final at the age of 33, was clobbered 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 by flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils.
It was just the second time that Federer had lost a Davis Cup singles rubber in straight sets – the other coming in his debut as an untested teenager in 1999 against Gianluca Pozzi of Italy.
Earlier, Stan Wawrinka had given the Swiss favourites a 1-0 lead by outplaying French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
In both matches, the top ranking players lost to the number twos in straightforward fashion.
But if Wawrinka’s demolition of Tsonga could hardly be classed as an upset, the Swiss being ranked fourth in the world to Tsonga’s 12th, Federer’s humiliation at the hands of Monfils was stunning.
Federer took a 8-2 winning head-to head record against Monfils into the rubber.
But his preparations for his first ever Davis Cup final took a hit last Saturday when he injured his back playing, ironically against Wawrinka, in the last four of the ATP World Tour finals in London.
He subsequently pulled out of the final against Novak Djokovic and was unable to practise on the indoor claycourt at Lille football stadium until Wednesday evening.
The French, who had no players qualified for London, had two weeks training on clay in Bordeaux and it showed as Monfils opened with an ace and had a tentative-looking Federer on the back foot from the start.
In all it took the Frenchman just 1 hour and 46 minutes to win, for the first time on clay, against Federer.
And there was no inkling of a repeat of their US Open quarter-final tie in September when Monfils let slip a two-set lead, and spurned two match points, before losing to the Swiss.
Federer admitted that he had struggled to get going after being mothballed for the last five days with the bad back, but he said he took consolation from the fact that he felt better and better as the match went on.
“I mean, it is what it is. So you accept the fact that you’re playing the way you feel. But it wasn’t all negative,” he said.
“I started to feel better as the match went on. That’s very encouraging, I must say.
“It’s not like, you know, I couldn’t play at all. For those who saw the match saw that it was a proper match, and he was the better player at the end.”
The die was also cast early in the Wawrinka-Tsonga tie with the Frenchman, watched by a Davis Cup record crowd of 27,432 crammed inside one half of the roofed Lille football stadium, looking and playing tight.
Wawrinka took the first set 6-1 in just 26 minutes. Tsonga tried as hard as he could to loosen up and he did take the second set.
But after a knife-edge start to the third set, Wawrinka applied more pressure and Tsonga crumbled. A quick break for the Swiss in the opening game of the fourth set sealed the deal.
Wawrinka said that at 29 and a veteran of 33 Davis Cup single ties, he has come to know well how to deal with the acute pressures the Davis Cup applies.