France get off to a good start in Britain’s Davis Cup group.

Fans are still getting used to the new format which Kosmos, the sports marketing company run by Gerard Pique, implemented two years ago in collaboration with the ITF but again, with more changes in an attempt to rectify some of the problems those initial changes threw up.

I wouldn’t say it’s ideal but it’s not something we’re overthinking because we’ve got to put all the focus on Saturday and the first match against a very difficult French team Leon Smith

This year the event is being held over 11-days with three cities hosting the group stages, namely Madrid, Turin and Innsbruk rather than everything happening over a week in Madrid as it did in 2019 with last year’s competition abandoned because of the Covid pandemic.

Britain is in an Innsbruk group with the Czech Republic and France and all matches will have to play behind closed doors as Austria has gone back into a 20-day lockdown!

France, competing thanks to a wild card, got the Group C under way at the Olympiahalle and defeated the Czech Republic (who qualified following a 3-1 win over Slovakia in Bratislava) 2-1, recovering well after losing the opening rubber when Tomas Machac beat Richard Gasquet 7-6(3) 6-2.

Jiri Vesely looked to be maintaining the Czech momentum when he took the first set off Adrian Mannarino but then faltered as the Frenchman levelled the tie 6-7(1) 6-4 6-2 leaving it to the recently installed ATP Doubles Final champions, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, to secure the overall victory which the duly did 3-6 6-4 6-3 over Machac and Jiri Lehecka.

Britain, who qualified automatically by reaching the 2019 semi-finals, will play France on Saturday and the Czech Republic on Sunday.

Winning the group would mean a quarter-final in Innsbruck then potentially a semi-final and final in Madrid while finishing as one of the best-placed runners-up, would mean heading for the Spanish capital ahead of the last eight!

Leon Smith, the British captain, is not concerning himself too much with such matters, saying: “The first thing you’ve got to try and do is win the group. Then you know you play your quarter-final in Innsbruck.

“The logistics side will be taken care of regardless, and I don’t look at it too much as being a disadvantage if you have to suddenly go off to Madrid.

“Obviously the way they’ve done it this time with Innsbruck and Madrid being at altitude helps mitigate that change of environment. I wouldn’t say it’s ideal but it’s not something we’re overthinking because we’ve got to put all the focus on Saturday and the first match against a very difficult French team.”

The team will be led by Cameron Norrie with Dan Evans at No.2 and Joe Salisbury partnering Neal Skupski – who was preferred to Jamie Murray –handling the doubles rubber while Liam Broady lines up as back-up.

To many it is stronger than the team which won the title in 2015 bearing in mind Andy Murray was very much on form at that time!

In other action on Thursday, Sweden won their first tie in Group B (Madrid) 3-0 against Canada while Croatia defeated Australia by a similar score-line in Group D (Turin).

Sweden’s Elias Ymer defeated Steven Diez 6-4 6-2 while older brother Mikael Ymer beat Vasek Pospisil 6-4 6-4 and
Andre Goransson partnered Robert Lindstedt to complete a whitewash over the Canadians defeating Pospisil and Brayden Schnur 7-6(5) 6-4.

Meanwhile Croatia’s Borna Gojo helped his team get off to a good start with a 7-6(5) 7-5 win over Alexei Popyrin while the experienced Marin Cilic defeated Alex de Minaur 6-1 5-7 6-4 who also played the doubles, teaming up with John Peers only to lose out to Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 6-3 6-1.



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