Please forgive me if there are some things that don't make sense...
Forget: "A new young and ambitious team."
Guy, which players did you select?
By order of their ranking, i retained Richard Gasquet, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Michaël Llodra and Arnaud Clément. And i choosed Gaël Monfils as the fifth player.
Can you explain the reasons of your choice?
The new element is of course Richard Gasquet who imposed himself after his good results. His selection is undisputable. For the others, it goes rather in the continuity. "Paulo" (Mathieu) almost qualified us on his own against Sweden achieving a perfect week-end. "Mika" (Llodra) and Arnaud (Clément) realised a wonderful doubles in Strasbourg; they're a very good team and today they have good chances of playing the doubles again. As for Gaël Monfils, like Richard he represents the future and the youth. It's in preparation of the future. It's also good to rely on someone like him. It's a new young and ambitious team. I can't wait to be with them all again.
"A big blow for the French team"
Sébastien Grosjean withdrew for this quarter final. How did you learn it?
I saw Sébastien after his defeat against Andy Roddick in Wimbledon. We had breakfast together and that's when he announced to me that he withdrew. It's a big blow fot the French team. Now, never mind, others will took advantage of it. It leaves a place to take for other players, who, i hope, will distinguish themselves. Even if our team will be a little less strong on paper now, i think victory is still possible for us. I'm focused on this encounter, i have been thinking about it since we beat Sweden. I try not to focus too much on Sébastien's withdrawal even if it is indeed a big blow for us.
What reasons did he put forward to you?
Those he spoke about in the press! He want to have a break. He is tired mentally and needs to be with his family, in holydays. When a player deliver that kind of speech, it means he is not in the right state to play and tennis is not the most important thing for him right now. Whatever the reasons, wether they're physical or mental doesn't change anything. I always had in the French team, wether in the Davis Cup or in the Fed cup, boys and girls who were ready to come by hitchhicking if it was needed. Seb always was one of our most faithful pilars in the team. Today, it is not the case, unluckily. I hope it's only a mishap.
"I'm disappointed not to have sébastien with us"
Did he disappoint you?
I like Sébastien a lot. So yes, i'm disappointed because i would have liked to spend more time with him and help him if he had played to do a good match. So i'm disappointed not to have him with us, not to be able to live this adventure with him. Now, there may be other opportunities to do that again with him. Meanwhile, i prefer to think about the others, those who will be there and who will surpass themselves.
What was the other players' reaction to this withdrawal?
When Sébastien announced it to me i told him to call the press to explain himself on it and above all to call his friends, which he did in the half hour immediately after. I don't really know how they reacted. And too bad if some are a little disappointed but it's the opportunity for them to play too. They just have to take advantage of it/seize it.
"Too full schedules and over-tired players"
Amélie Mauresmo withdrew before the finals of the Fed Cup last year. Now it's Sébastien Grosjean's turn in the Davis Cup. This competitions don't seem to be the priority of the French tennis leaders. Does it worry you for the future?
We have very full schedules so the players are tired. Maybe we should find a way to lighten up the Davis Cup and find a more attractive formula for the Fed Cup. Despite all this, i think that playing in the French team must stay more important than anything else for them. For me, there are the four Grand Slam tournaments, then just behind the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup. All the rest are only tournaments of preparation to win these six competitons. Then, we must of course bear in mind that there is the schedules, the money, and other parameters that can have an effect on career choices too.
"Gasquet is one of the best French players in singles"
The withdrawal of Sébastien Grosjean reduce your margin of choice...
Yes but it simplifies it all the same! He said to the press that he didn't want to come here without feeling well. If he was to come without wanting to work and to fight, i prefer him to be in holydays. I know that those who will be there will be at 200%. They have the physical and technical capabilities to take up the challenge and why not to win.
This tie will be Richard Gasquet's debuts in the Davis Cup. What did you thought about his extraordinary progression?
It did not surprise me. Let's say that he exploded like the cork of a champagne bottle. It's only surprising because it's sudden. But his progresses were to be made in a few of months. When he would have been more structured in his game, better in his head, it was bound that he would get over his old difficulties and reach a new level. He has already made a step forward today and he's now probably the best or one of the two best French players when it comes to singles.
"Richard has all it takes to become a great Davis Cup player."
Do you know him well personnaly?
Not intimately but yes pretty well.
Do you think he has what it takes to become a great Davis Cup player?
Don't you fear that the pressure so particular to the Davis Cupd will be hard to handle for him?
No. He knows how to deal with the pressure. He has pressure at Roland-Garros, in Wimbledon...It's something that you must learn to deal with but also in wich/because of wich you can progress. It's a part of what he has to learn. And it's maybe better for him to make his debut abroad than in France.
"I base my choices on concrete, objective criteria"
Since when do you want to select him?
I don't base my decision on who i want to select or on a player's potential. I function with choices based on concrete criteria like a player's recent results, current form... What interest me is the efficiency of a player (to win and bring points) not his possible potential.
On the other side, Arnaud Clément lives through a difficult time in terms of his confidence. Do you think that the Davis Cup could boost him?
Today, he's for sure far behind in singles. Now, in the doubles, i know i can count on him. He already played really well the last time. He's capable of transcending himself (...
...) for an encounter like this one.
"Surprise to play indoor"
During one month, the players evolved on grass. What is the good method to readapt to the clay in a minimum of time?
You have to spend a lot of time! For that matter, we will gather together again as soon as Thursday morning to start training hoping that the Russians won't do the same thing! We will have to work in priority on (too many technical terms for me...
) les frappes de fond du court, retrouver les glissades, les coups d’attente, les coups d’attaque et la transition de l’un à l’autre.
Did the choice of clay made by the Russian team surprised you?
No. What surprised me was that the Russians choosed to play indoors. I thought that they'll prefer to play outside. It can be 35°C in Moscow at that time of the year. But, as for the clay, they have Davydenko who had a great run in Roland-Garros and Safin who enjoys this surface. I would be more surprised if they had chosen grass!
"35% of chances"
Do you have a feeling of revenge towards this Russian team because of the 2002 final lost in Bercy?
No. We lost regularly ( like fairly...
) in 2002 and we now have an opportunity to beat them at (their) home. It's a great challenge, that's all. We already won against them then we lost. It's the same thing in Fed Cup. Anyway, we really come there with a huge desire to do well, a lot of motivation and resolution.
In theory, you'll face a very tough Russian team...
In theory, yes!
Does the possible presence of both Safin and Davydenko change your approach of this encounter?
No. It doesn't change anything at all. We expect to play the tougher team possible anyway.
How do you estimates the French team's chances?
With their best team, i'd say 35%. If not, i don't know. We go there to try to beat Safin and Davydenko in our mind anyway. And we can beat them. We know the level is really high but it's up to us to surpass ourselves to reach it.