The climax to the 2014 tennis year is here and this weekend’s final of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas is one of the most eagerly anticipated finals in recent years as France takes on Switzerland.
Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille is one of the most spectacular multi-purpose arenas anywhere; in size, architecture (it looks like a futuristic hovercraft) and adaptability. The facility with its retractable roof has two levels for sporting or entertainment events with the main level being able to split in two that can see one half hydraulically lifted and moved on massive tracks to reveal the lower level. It is a stunning arena and only two years old.
For indoor football it will seat over 50,000, it staged motocross just days before the Davis Cup final but this weekend 27,000 people will be seated in a horseshoe shape, focusing on an indoor clay court, promising to create an atmosphere that will be difficult to surpass.
For the record, Pierre Mauroy was a Prime Minister in the government of President Francoise Mitterrand in the 1980’s and was also a mayor of Lille; he died in 2013, a year after the opening of the stadium that bears his name.
Going into the final between France and Switzerland, the home side have a 10-2 advantage. The last time the two nations met was in the 2004 quarter-finals and France won 3-2. The year before was the last time the Swiss beat France and it was also in the quarters and again the score was 3-2.
The draw for the final has Jo-Wilfried Tsonga playing Stan Wawrinka first on Friday, then Gael Monfils faces Roger Federer, the doubles on Saturday is Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet against Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer and Sunday’s reverse singles is Tsonga and Federer first followed by Monfils and Wawrinka.
Historically, 1923 was their first meeting with France winning 3-2. France first played the Davis Cup in 1904 and 1923 was Switzerland’s first foray into the competition. France has won this amazing competition nine times, the last occasion being 2001 in Australia and its last finals appearance was a loss to Serbia in 2010 which went down to the last rubber.
By contract the Swiss have only ever played one final, in 1992 when they lost to the USA in Fort Worth, Texas. It was a final that didn’t leave the Swiss with too many pleasant memories.
If France were to win their tenth Davis Cup they would break away from Great Britain and hold third place overall for the most wins after the USA (32) and Australia (28) but if the Swiss win their first Davis Cup by BNP Paribas they will be the 14th different nation to win the Cup.
Lille is the 39th different city to host a Davis Cup final and it is the fifth different city in France to have that honour and it’s the eleventh final in France.
Only once in a Davis Cup final has a nation come back from 0-2 to win, that was in 1939 when Australia beat the USA 3-2, while in the World Group overall (since 1981) that has occurred eight times with the most recent occasion being in the quarterfinals this year when France came back to beat Germany.
Only twice have all five rubbers gone to five sets; in 1946 when the former Yugoslavia beat France and in 2003 Romania beat Ecuador.
All is ready for what promises to be a thrilling three days to close out the 2014 tennis season.