"Black Friday" for the French

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The Noah Strip is driven on Friday 23 November two points to zero by Croatia in the Davis Cup final after defeats by Jeremy Chardy (6-2, 7-5, 6-4 against Borna Coric) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6- 3, 7-5, 6-4 against Marin Cilic)
The Noah Strip is driven on Friday 23 November two points to zero by Croatia in the Davis Cup final after defeats by Jeremy Chardy (6-2, 7-5, 6-4 against Borna Coric) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6- 3, 7-5, 6-4 against Marin Cilic) PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

Six small sets played, zero sets and even zero breaks. Difficult to say more. The Noah Strip is driven on Friday 23 November two points to zero by Croatia in the Davis Cup final after defeats by Jeremy Chardy (6-2, 7-5, 6-4 against Borna Coric) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6- 3, 7-5, 6-4 against Marin Cilic).

And once it is not customary, the "Mr. good waves" of the team of France has poured into pessimism, defeated as rarely: "Maybe we could have played a little better, but they beat us on a regular basis. Now, the idea is to stay alive to play on Sunday, but it will be tough …" The beautiful lyrical flights and captive phrases of the captain have given way to sobriety and lucidity.

Croatia favorite from the beginning

Unlike the final against the Swiss in 2014, this time no one had claimed the opposite: for this final final in its historical format, Croatia has been one of the favorites since the beginning. When Noah was composing with a Mexican army to establish his selection ("Our number is our strength" he repeated on Thursday), the Croatian captain had few options. But the choice of the poor was actually the rich's plate, with two singularly better classified players, Marin Cilic, n. 7 worldwide, and his junior Borna Coric, n. 12, when the French number one, Jeremy Chardy, is 40is and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga … 259is.

"Logic has been respected: in terms of service quality, yields, they were really superior to us in many sectors, sums up Noah, who has refused to designate this day as the worst of his captains. When you're close to victory and I'm one or two points, yes, you can get a lot of frustration. There, we never saw the finish line, we were still far behind. "

Chardy, first. In front of Borna Coric, the Palois has never been able to find its rhythm. Neither has implemented his usual scheme of play: the fee service then moves by right. A first ghost ball, not very perspicacious choices and a delay almost every time, despite some wonders that are reversed. Tsonga, then. Even though Manceau made a slightly paler copy: he was solid in service and on the obverse, he got break points (five) unlike Chardy.

On Thursday, on the eve of hostilities, he assured that he was ready and able to keep up despite a severed season. This match against a Cilic, neither more nor less at its level of 7is world, brought him back to reality, and tears on the bench as soon as the game was probably there to testify. Especially since the Manceau had to take a medical break at 3-2 in the third set, victim of an adductor to elongation. "The doctors told me that I could have been better, but there were 25,000 people in the stadium and even more in front of their televisions, and if I had to lose, it would have held up."

The Croatian number two, Borna Coric, also called the psoas pain doctor when he had almost won the game. But as the presence of Tsonga is uncertain for Sunday, as much as Coric wanted reassuring: "I played from the Shanghai tournament, so I'm used to it, it does not bother me for Sunday, I can play five or six hours, it will not be a problem."

Noah's bet is seriously compromised

At the end of the first day, Noah's bet is not lost, but seriously compromised. The undefeated captain in three finals (1991, 1996, 2017) made the calculation of the clay: on the one hand, to counter the qualities of the two Croatian players, more at ease on the hard and without exceptional results on this ocher season. And secondly, focusing on the difficulties of adapting Cilic and Coric to the most demanding surfaces. Both had been invited to the London Masters (Coric as a substitute) the week before, would have been entitled to five days of preparation when his team would have had three weeks. Thus, he believed, the counters of both teams would be virtually tied. On paper, at least.

Marin Cilic victorious against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Marin Cilic victorious against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

On the field, the two Croatian players have foiled all their opponents' predictions. A surgical quip, supersonic returns, Coric dominated Chardy in all areas, and it was the Frenchman who too often showed signs of breathlessness when Coric seemed to roam. On the bench, Noah multiplied the grimaces. In the official gallery, the Croatian president was close to bliss.

Even the problem of trust, the two Croatian players have had an advantage. "Throughout the year, they did very well, it's not surprising" Tsonga summary. He himself was absent seven months after the left meniscus surgery. Since he returned in September, he played only five games for a single victory. As for Jeremy Chardy, he definitely had a whole season, but without great results: apart from a final on the grass at & # 39; s-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc), he chained above all the defeats in the first or second round. Not enough to fold your chest when they arrive in the field on Friday.

It remains double Saturday, hoping not to sink, but Noah himself does not seem to believe it. "We will try to hold on to what's left of life, see you on Sunday he asked the journalists. Whatever happens, we'll talk and it may be time to take stock, but if there are any feelings going through my mind, I try to put them aside. We will put all our energy for Nico [Mahut] and PH [Pierre-Hugues Herbert, qui affrontent la paire Pavic-Dodig]It's a difficult match. "

At least as much as the battle in the stands. Because to finish a black day, even the Croats have won this game. Only a thousand of the 19,500 spectators present at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium managed to give the illusion of being at least three.

Elisabeth Pineau (Villeneuve-d & # 39; Ascq, special correspondent)

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