It was the last major trophy missing from his collection, but after Roger Federer won the Davis Cup for Switzerland here on Sunday he insisted this was “one for the boys”. Having secured his country’s first victory in the 114-year history of the team competition by beating Richard Gasquet in straight sets, Federer hailed it as a triumph for his team rather than himself. “I’ve won enough in my career that I don’t need this to complete everything or to tick off a box,” he said.
Just a week after he pulled out of the final of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London with a back injury, Federer came through his third match in as many days without a hint of any physical problems to win 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Gasquet had replaced the French No 1, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who aggravated an arm injury while losing to Stan Wawrinka on day one.
Federer, having suffered a heavy defeat by Gaël Monfils as the first day finished all square, helped put his team in the driving seat on Saturday when he partnered Wawrinka to victory in the doubles over Gasquet and Julien Benneteau. With the Swiss needing to win only one of the final day’s reverse singles, there was little doubt about the outcome once Federer had broken Gasquet in only the third game of the fourth rubber with a sublime half-volley winner followed by a magnificent forehand pass down the line.
It was hard not to feel sorry for Gasquet, whose nerve has sometimes failed him in the past, especially in front of his home supporters. The crowd in the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, where the attendance of 27,448 broke the Davis Cup record for the second time in three days, did everything they could to lift their man, creating a wonderful atmosphere.
Everywhere you looked there were Tricolores and painted faces, while a group of enterprising supporters came dressed as the Four Musketeers, perhaps in the hope that the present team might be lifted by the spirit of René Lacoste, Henri Cochet, Jean Borotra and Jacques Brugnon, who won the Davis Cup six years in a row for France in the 1920s and 1930s.
Before the match there was an on-court parade of French Davis Cup champions of more recent vintage and once play started the crowd needed no invitation to whip themselves into a patriotic frenzy. In the early stages at least, regular chants of “Allez, Richard!” and occasional renditions of “La Marseillaise” even managed to drown out the noise of the hundreds of cowbells which the Swiss had brought into the stadium.
However, if Federer suffered occasional lapses, he was still far too good for Gasquet, who did not force a single break point. Federer struck 62 winners to Gasquet’s 39 and hit some stunning drop shots in particular. He saved the best of them for last, feathering the ball over the net and out of Gasquet’s reach on match point before falling to his knees and lying face down on the clay, his eyes filling with tears.
It was quite a turnaround after the week had begun with the Swiss in a mini-crisis as Federer, having fallen out with Wawrinka after heckling by the former’s wife during their match at the World Tour Finals nine days ago, faced a race against time to recover from his back injury. Federer had felt at the start of the week that there was “no way” he would be fit to play three matches in three days here.
Last weekend’s confrontation was put aside as Federer thanked Wawrinka “for the effort he’s put in this weekend to build me back up” and for “just keeping me alive”. Wawrinka, who admitted that he was already drunk by the time of the post-match press conference, said simply: “Roger, I still love you.”Reuse content