Roger Federer enters new territory with Swiss in Davis Cup final

 

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The Independent Online

There are very few occasions in tennis that are new to Roger Federer but playing in the Davis Cup final later this year will be one of them. France will have home advantage, at a venue to be decided, when they stage the 2014 final in two months’ time, but Federer’s Switzerland will be the firm favourites.

Federer’s joy at leading his country into their first final for 22 years was evident when he won the deciding rubber against Italy’s Fabio Fognini in front of an ecstatic 18,500-capacity crowd in the Palexpo Arena in Geneva on Sunday.

The former world No 1 jumped with joy before being taken on a lap of honour around the stadium on the shoulders of Stan Wawrinka, his team mate, and Severin Luthi, the Swiss captain. “It’s fabulous to share in this moment,” Federer said.

Luthi’s gamble in resting Federer from Saturday’s doubles, in which Fognini and Simone Bolelli beat Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli in five sets to keep the semi-final alive, paid off in the first of the reverse singles. Although  Federer did not play at his best, he still needed less than two hours to beat Fognini 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 and secure the point that Switzerland needed.

The 17-times Grand Slam champion, who has now won all five of his Davis Cup singles rubbers this year, took command by breaking Fognini in the sixth game of the first set. However, the Italian No 1 offered stern resistance in the second and third sets before Federer won the deciding tie-break 7-4.

Luthi, who is part of  Federer’s entourage for most of the year, said: “For the whole of Switzerland it’s great we’re in the final now. We couldn’t be happier. Roger didn’t have that much time to get used to the court and conditions and there is a lot of pressure involved. For me he played fantastic tennis.”

Switzerland lost to a powerful United States team in their only previous appearance in the final in 1992, but if Federer and Wawrinka stay fit they should fancy their chances against France, who ended the Czech Republic’s two-year domination of the  competition.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet gave them an unassailable lead at Roland Garros on Saturday by beating Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych in the doubles.

There is no country in the world that places as much importance on the Davis Cup as France and interest in the final there will be huge,  particularly given the opposition. “Federer is a monument of tennis, so this is a dream final,” Gasquet said.

France have won the Davis Cup nine times – the last being in 2001 – and have also finished runners-up seven times, most recently in 2010, when they lost to Serbia.

“Everybody speaks about a dream final against Switzerland, but for me the dream is just that France will be there,” Arnaud Clement, the French captain, said. “With Federer and Wawrinka it’s obviously a big contest, but the important thing is we are in the final.”

France’s biggest problem might be in finding a suitable venue at such short notice. The northern city of Lille is considered to be the most likely choice.

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