French Davis Cup captain Arnaud Clement has an embarrassment of riches to choose from for the looming World Group clash with Australia.
As Australian captain Pat Rafter toys with the idea of pitch-forking a pair of teenage tyros into the Davis Cup singles cauldron, French counterpart Arnaud Clement is agonising over an embarrassment of riches at his disposal for the looming World Group clash.
Rafter and Clement will announce their line-ups on Tuesday, with Australia seemingly facing Mission Impossible against an extraordinarily deep pool of talent available to Clement.
France have eight players inside the top 40, headed by world No.9 Richard Gasquet and the 10th-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who are almost certain to fill Clement’s singles positions for the indoor claycourt tie beginning on January 31.
The French captain is also tipped to include claycourt specialist Gael Monfils as his third option, with world No.19 Gilles Simon and world No.28 Benoit Paire also in the mix.
Veteran Julien Benneteau is expected to serve as the doubles anchor, but who he partners is anyone’s guess.
Michael Llodra is a 10-year servant but insiders believe the 33-year-old may be overlooked, with Benneteau possibly teaming with Gasquet after the duo won an Olympic bronze medal together in 2012.
Benneteau and Tsonga have won a Masters Series title together, but Tsonga is unlikely to be asked to play three days in a row, especially on the back of a taxing Australian Open campaign on the other side of the world.
Whoever Clement goes with, Australia will arrive in La Roche-sur-Yon in western France as huge underdogs without the injured Bernard Tomic, who is expected to be out of action for three months after undergoing hip surgery.
Australian No.1 Lleyton Hewitt has no less than eight Frenchmen ahead of him in the world rankings.
Hewitt will be the first man picked, but word on the street is Rafter is seriously considering thrusting the Special Ks – 17-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis and 18-year-old Nick Kyrgios – into the day-one singles hot seats after both reached the second round on debut at the Open.
Such a bold scenario would leave 32-year-old Hewitt fresh for the doubles with Chris Guccione and a real crack in the first of the reserve singles rubbers on day three.
Rafter has overlooked Marinko Matosevic, unimpressed by the Australian No.2’s none-from-12 record in grand slam singles and his failure to win a live Davis Cup rubber in two attempts.
“Marinko was informed a couple of days ago he wasn’t going to be involved in the team,” Matosevic’s coach Mark Woodforde told AAP on Monday.
“He was told he wouldn’t be taken, not specifically based on results because he won matches in Brisbane, won matches in Sydney, but there’s a combination of attitude, approach and how to deal with the Davis Cup pressure.
“It’s been well versed Marinko has not won a grand slam match and we’ve got a couple of young guns coming up that need be given a crack at it because that’s where the future will be.”
Rafter’s other option is to take world No.67 Matt Ebden or another young up-and-comer in 21-year-old James Duckworth.