OMG how cute is Arnaud!
For some it was a surprise, but for those at the stadium during practice, not really. Nicolas Escude was expected to start in singles alongside Arnaud Clement, instead Guy Forget chose to give Thierry Ascione his first Davis Cup moment.
City hall in Metz was the site for the draw ceremony for the first round Davis cup World group tie France - Croatia. France captain had some turbulent times with the injury od Frenh no1 Sebastien Grosjean, and a tough decision whether to omit more experienced, and a better player in Nicolas Escude, but Forget was convinced it was time for Ascione.
"His attitude is great, he practised great, watching him in Melbourne, I felt it was the right time. So, for me, this seems like a logical decision".
Even though Escude won in Doha, coming out on Tour well since injury took almost half of last season from him, Forget opted for Ascione. Surface may have been one of the reasons, and Escude is set to play doubles with Michal Llodra: it's not easy to play
three days of best of five matches. Anyway, the man who was chosen to replace Grosjean gets to play the singles.
"I worked hard, I am ready to give 100%. I'm surprised. As the week progressed I felt I had a chance, certanly I felt that I was on the right track".
Escude did not pracitse on wednesday, Escude most probably knew on Wednesday Forget's choice, but he brushed aside sugestions of ill feeling.
"I just neeeded a day of. That'a all. Today I'm back and ready to roll".
Arnaud Clement will take on Mario Ancic first, to be folllowed by Ascione - Ljubicic. Clement is, as he said, super confident.
"I just feel better and better since going down under. Form was not great at the start of the season, but today I feel perfect. I'm super confident for my match, and the team."
The Croatians got their wish. Even though it's not really important who plays first or second, but who gets the points.
"Ljubicic wanted to play second, Ancic wanted to go on first. My wish? I would like to have a 2:0 lead on Friday."
Nikki Pilic has seen it all, 43 years in Davis Cup as a player and captain.
"Two weeks ago I would have said; almost impossible. But, now since France is without Grosjean and Fabrice Santoro, now our chances look better. Much better. But it's not on paper, it's what you bring on court. If Mario can serve well, and stay out of Clement's forehand, he's in with a chance, a very good chance."
Ljubicic had some minor injury problems (shoulder), all Croatians seem to have shoulder problems, but he is good and ready to go.
"Ascione is a very good player, no real weaknesses, the only one on both teams without pressure. No-one is expecting him to win, so it was a good choice by Forget. The shoulder is OK, I had enough time to take care of the shoulder. But, just how good I'l have to wait and see on Friday. Ask me after the Ascione match."
Mario Ancic, for some the rising star that took his time to rise, is living what he hopes to be "the best tennis season, I expect to reach the top 30 by the end." Mario likes Ascione, "he does everything well", respects Clement, but likes his chances.
"I think I can win".
For the doubles (Saturday), Forget has nominated Escude and Llodra, Pilic will stick with his singles boys, unless either Ljubicic or Ancic is in need of a rest. On sunday Clement takes on Ljubicic, the tie will conclude with Ascione and Ancic. And many, including the big French journalist names, think it could be the decider. Fifth rubber, Ascione or Ancic. It would be a great end since France and Croatia have never met in Davis Cup competition.