Federer fit for duty but doubts persist

Roger Federer is set to play for Switzerland in the Davis Cup final against France in Lille on Friday despite a back injury that laid him low.

There had been concerns in the Swiss camp that he would be unable to compete after injuring his back playing in London last weekend.

But the draw announced Thursday afternoon sees him go up against Gael Monfils in the second of the opening two singles rubbers.

French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga plays Stan Wawrinka in the opening match.

The doubles on Saturday opposes Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet of France against the Swiss pairing of Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer.

Sunday’s reverse singles, as it stands, will start with Tsonga against Federer to be followed by Monfils versus Wawrinka.

Federer injured his back playing Wawrinka in the last four at the ATP World Tour finals in London on Saturday evening and he was unable to contest the final the following day against Novak Djokovic.

He was unable to train on Monday and Tuesday on the indoor red claycourt specially laid down inside Lille’s Pierre Mauroy football stadium which is hosting this year’s final.

But he had a short practice session on Wednesday evening and did so again on Thursday morning just before the draw was made.

There is still a possibility that Federer might not play as the Davis Cup rules stipulate that an injured player can be replaced up to one hour before his match begins as long as a doctor confirms the injury.

But having looked at ease and in no pain during Thursday morning’s practice session all the signs are that he will play his 45th singles tie for his country in the Davis Cup.

Federer admitted that he would be taking an element of uncertainty with him into Friday’s rubber.

“We’ll see tomorrow,” he replied when asked if he would be at 100%.

“Only the match gives you all the answers really. Today in practice, it wasn’t the goal to go to 100%. I never do in practice the day before a potential match.

“So I’m just really pleased that I’m actually able to play tomorrow. I’ll give it a go.

“Definitely looking forward to playing against Gael. I think he’s a great player. Very exciting to watch. I like to play against him, too.”

French captain Arnaud Clement said he had always believed that Federer would be fit enough to play alongside Wawrinka and had prepared his players accordingly.

“No, it’s not really a surprise,” he said when asked about Federer’s inclusion.

“It was obvious to us that he was going to play. Our preparation was to be able to play against him and Stan.”

– Strength-in-depth –

Despite being a 17-time major title winner, Federer has never before appeared in a Davis Cup final and he has made winning the trophy for Switzerland for the first time a priority.

Without Federer, Switzerland’s chances of winning a first Davis Cup would be extremely slim, with the French boasting a strength-in-depth and experienced line-up of Tsonga, Monfils, Gasquet and Benneteau

The problem for the Swiss is that although world number four Wawrinka is comfortably ranked above all the French players, after him the fall-off in the team is steep with Chiudinelli 212th and Lammer 508th in the rankings.

The final will be the 13th meeting between the two countries in the Davis Cup with France leading 10-2 in previous clashes.

France have won the Davis Cup nine times before, third equal best with Britain, the last being away to Australia in 2001.

A 10th triumph on home soil would be a huge deal for the French players and public alike.

“We are an historic country of the Davis Cup. We won it nine times,” said Benneteau.

“For us it’s a wonderful opportunity to have this final in front of 27,000 people against the best player of all time. For us it means a lot.”


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