Semifinals of the Davis Cup sees France host Serbia at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France on the outdoor red clay. The two teams have only met twice before with Serbia defeating the French in the Davis Cup final in 2010. Though under the flag of Yugoslavia, the countries met eight times before.
France's route to the semifinal
Despite not being at full strength in both their World Group matches, the French have come through them both relatively comfortable, winning 4-1 against Japan in the first round and Great Britain in the quarter-final. However, this year, they will be hoping to go one better and make the final after losing to Croatia at this stage last year.
In their opening match, the French team traveled to Tokyo where they faced a Japanese team without their star man Kei Nishikori. Instead, Yuichi Sugita ranked 44 at the time, led the team. Richard Gasquet spearheaded the French team. Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon put team France ahead 2-0 after the first day with straight sets wins against Taro Daniel and young-gun Yoshihito Nishioka. The doubles tie saw France go 3-0 and qualify for the quarter-final as Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut did the job, again in straights against Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama. Mahut defeated Nishioka via retirement and Uchiyama got Japan's only win on day three in the final match against Herbert.
In the quarter-final, France met fierce rivals Great Britain, who were without Andy Murray. Lucas Pouille came into the team to lead the France alongside Jeremy Chardy. The first day saw France take control of the tie at home with Lucas Pouille defeating Kyle Edmund and Jeremy Chardy dispatching Dan Evans, both in straight sets. France went with Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut for the doubles, which they came through in four tight sets to book a semi-final place. Dan Evans' victory on day three in the dead rubber assured Britain their first and only point as Chardy beat Edmund in the final dead rubber match.
Serbia's route to the semifinals
In both World Group matches, Serbia has been able to call on a full strengthed team to defeat Russia in the first round and Spain in the quarterfinals, both 4-1. But it has not been as plain sailing as the result suggested. The Serbians haven't lifted the trophy since 2010 and came close in 2013, losing to the Czech Republic in 3-2 away from home. Three years on, they will be hoping to claim the Davis Cup once again.
In the opening round, Serbia opted for an indoor hard court tie against the inexperienced Russian team. After the first day of action, Serbia was 2-0 up, thanks to a five-set victory from Viktor Troicki and Novak Djokovic, who came through after Daniil Medvedev retired in the fourth set. The Serbians on day three continued to be troubled, this time by Konstantin Kravchuk and Andrey Kuznetsov. But the pair of Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic did the job in four tight sets to progress to the quarterfinals. Dusan Lajovic won on day four with Russian gaining their only point after Zimonjic withdrew.
Serbia faced Spain in a mouth watering quarter final clash. But for the Spaniards, no Rafael Nadal as the Serbians was at full strength once again. Like in the first round, Serbia found themselves 2-0 up after day one with Djokovic and Troicki getting the better of Albert Ramos-Viinolas and Pablo Carreno Busta, both coming in straight sets. Troicki and Zimonjic were the doubles pairing once more and were forced to a fifth set by Carreno Busta and veteran Marc Lopez, but escaped 6-2 to advance to the semifinals. Dusan Lajovic made it 4-0 on day three while Ramos-Vinolas defeated Nenad Zimonjic comfortably in a fifth dead rubber match.
France, who have an abundance of depth flowing through their team will be without regulars Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet for the home side. Jeremy Chardy, who came in for the quarter-final tie is also dropped as France, once again name a strong team for the crucial semifinal tie.
Yannick Noah, who has expressed a desire to reach the final, the first since 2014 has called upon number one and two ranked players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille, who come in after missing the quarter-final match against Great Britain. Keeping their places in the team are Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, one of the most consistent and top doubles team of the past few years.
All the players have experience at the top level and three of the four players are ranked in the top 100. Should the French make the final, this will be their 18th Davis Cup final, winning nine titles, the recent coming in 2001 against Australia, winning that tie 3-2 with Nicolas Escude defeating Wane Arthurs in a crucial fifth rubber.
The Serbian team will be without their top stars for the semifinal tie. Novak Djokovic, who decided to skip the rest of the 2017 season in July will not feature for the team this weekend. Viktor Troicki, Serbia number two ranked player will also miss the tie alongside veteran Janko Tipsarevic, both through injury. Nenad Zimonjic will be hoping their relatively inexperienced team will rise and shock the French.
Doubles legend Nenad Zimonjic, captain of the Davis Cup team will have only one Davis Cup regular on his team this upcoming weekend in Dusan Lajovic, Serbia's number three player ranked 80 in the world. Also, alongside Lajovic is Laslo Djere, ranked 95 in the world and making his Davis Cup debut away from home. Filip Krajinovic and Nenad Zimonjic make up the rest of the team hoping to shock the favorites.
There is no doubt that the Serbian team is inexperienced but as a country, they boast some pretty good stats of late. Their only win came in 2010 when they defeated the Czech Republic, but on that occasion, Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki was in the team as they defeated France, the team they face this weekend 3-2. Troicki winning the fifth rubber against Michael Llodra.