BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will open for favourites France in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal tie against Argentina in Buenos Aires, facing the home side’s No. 2 Carlos Berlocq.
Gilles Simon, named at the last minute as France’s second singles player in place of Richard Gasquet, then faces Juan Monaco to complete Friday’s singles action on the clay court at Parque Roca on the city's outskirts.
Tsonga is due to face off against Monaco in the first of the reverse singles on Sunday, following Thursday’s draw held at the Usina del Arte with Simon closing against Berlocq.
In Saturday’s doubles, France’s Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau face the home side’s David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos.
World No. 9 Gasquet arrived in Buenos Aires at the beginning of the week exhausted from his efforts in a good start to the season and still troubled by an ankle problem that affected his performance at Miami last week where he lost to Andy Murray in the semifinals.
French captain Arnaud Clement said there were two reasons for choosing world No. 13 Simon over Gasquet.
“The most important thing is that Gilles is in fine form and confidence. He had a very good tournament in Miami (last week),” Clement told the post-draw news conference.
“Everyone was expecting it to be Richard in view of his results since the beginning of the year but he still has pain in his ankle," he added. “I prefer a player who is 100 per cent to a great player a bit diminished in his capabilities.”
Simon said: “I hope to play a great match. We are all fit, I’m ready for the fight.
“I prepare to be available from the Friday as the fifth player, that’s what one does… and I’m not so far [from Gasquet] either.”
Argentina, who beat Germany 5-0 in February to reach the quarterfinals for the 12th consecutive year, are the underdogs without world No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro, who decided to concentrate on the tour and forgo Davis Cup this year. As a result, Berlocq steps in for just his fourth Davis Cup singles appearance.
“Obviously, we already know what Tsonga can do, it’s going to be a very tough path," said Berlocq. "I’ll have to give 100 per cent and if possible even a little more."
Argentina’s captain Martin Jaite explained why he opted for Berlocq as his second singles player over Zeballos, who has a higher ranking and beat Rafa Nadal in the Viña del Mar final in Chile in February.
“Charly played very well in the last tie (against Germany). Also when he started playing Davis Cup against the Czechs he played okay and he has experience to play this match,” Jaite said.
Berlocq said giving new world No. 2 Andy Murray a run for his money at Indian Wells last month had boosted his confidence.
“I couldn’t quite win but to know that I can play as an equal against such great players gives me a lot of confidence,” he said.
Davis Cup stalwart Nalbandian, who has played in three finals since 2006, was asked to compare this tie with the previous meeting between the two nations in Lyon in 2010 which France won 5-0.
“They are very different," he said. "That tie was on a fast surface. We believe in our team’s ability to fight throughout the three days and anything can happen."
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Carlos Berlocq (ARG) v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
R2: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Gilles Simon (FRA)
R3: David Nalbandian/Horacio Zeballos (ARG) v Julien Benneteau/Michael Llodra (FRA)
R4: Juan Monaco (ARG) v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
R5: Carlos Berlocq (ARG) v Gilles Simon (FRA)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) - 04/04/2013
Horacio Zeballos (ARG) - 04/04/2013
Juan Monaco (ARG) - 04/04/2013
Gilles Simon (FRA) - 04/04/2013