France Versus Serbia – Davis Cup Final

Serbia Celebrates Against USA

Belgrade is gearing up for the Davis Cup Tennis finals this weekend. Serbia is hosting France in the finals. I took the  photo above during an earlier round in the Davis Cup, when Serbia defeated the USA here in Belgrade last spring. Since then, they went on to win at Croatia in the quarterfinals this summer, and earlier this fall, came back from behind to beat the Czech Republic.

There is a really good New York Times article this week about the Novak Djokovic family and Serbian tennis. It appears that Serbia is the favorite. They are at home in the friendly hard court confines of the Belgrade Arena. They have the world’s #3 player in Novak Djokovic, who should get 2 wins. It would then take one more win by Serbia to clinch the best of 5 series. If Djokovic falters, then Serbia could be in trouble. Assuming Novak comes through, where will they get the other win? France will be playing with world #12 Gael Monfils, who is one of my favorite players to watch because of his exciting and risky style of play. They are also bringing 30 year old Michael Llodra who is in top form as the world #23 player. He beat Novak last month in Paris at an ATP-100 tourney event. Serbia will counter with either world #30 Victor Troiki, or world #49 Janko Tipsarevic. Janko was the hero against the Czech Republic last round and I hope they use him, despite the lower ranking. The doubles match will be interesting also with Serbian veteran and world double #3 Nenad Zimonjic.

There is a lot of pressure on the Serbs playing at home, but there will also be a lot of support, which could rattle the French. Guy Forget, the Captain of the French team, has been playing up the “we’re going to a hostile scene” and the “Serb fans could get violent” cards in the media. A good strategy to get his players pumped up.

I won’t be able to attend the games this weekend, sadly. Nadia is going on her annual girls shopping and dining trip to Budapest, Hungary and I’ll be alone with the kids. We’ll watch the matches on TV. The Davis Cup web site will also carry live radio broadcast as well as a blog by The London Times reporter, Clive White, who is here in Belgrade to cover the matches. It really inspires me to play more tennis and get my children started in a tennis academy.

I would like to wrap up this post with a prediction. It is tough not knowing what the match ups will be as both teams are keeping their selections private until the day of the games. It would be nice for Serbia to win. The Serbs are much more fanatic and passionate about tennis than the French are and a win for Serbia would mean much to nation. I predict Serbia winning 3 – 2.

Serbia Versus France

 

I photographed this sign close to my house. It is in the Cyrillic script and reads in the Serbian Latin script, “Srce Na Teren” which in English translates to “Leave Your Heart On the Field.” I guess some other rough English translations would be to “Give 100%” “Do or Die” “There is No Tomorrow”. They are all sport cliches refering to the big World Cup Qualifying match that will occur September 9, 2009 (09.09.09).

Serbia leads the Group 7 European Qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in South Africa. They have a five point advantage over second place, and group favorite France. France has an extra game to play on September 5, hosting Romania. If they win, they will then come into the Serbia game only 2 points behind. After playing Serbia, France has only to host the tiny Faroe Islands and Austria in October when group play completes. Serbia has a bit tougher after France, hosting Romania and then traveling to Lithuania. So it looks like the September 9th game will decide the group winner. 

Serbia lost to France 1-2 back in September of last year. This is their only loss and they have been impressive, winning in Romania and Austria. France has stumbled twice, losing in Vienna and a draw in Romania. It will be a fantastic match. The team finishing second place in the group will have to play a second place team in another group to qualify for South Africa. I’ll definitely be blogging the game live. 

I have previously blogged about the Serbian soccer team here, and our near death experience here.

September 9th Update: I watched the game from my home. I had the High School Open House at my school the same night as the game. I got home in time to watch it. I saw the Serbian penalty goal. It didn’t look like much of a foul, but the ref had to call it. I think the red card was a bit excessive. Great penalty kick, however, and Serbia was up 1-0. France came back to equalize on a good goal by veteran Henry. I had to put my daughter to bed at halftime and missed the second half. I watched the highlights immediately after the game. Serbia hit the crossbar on one good attempt but couldn’t get another goal. 

I think they played well and with a tie, it makes next month’s game (Serbia hosting on Saturday October 10) with Romania huge. They are still four points clear of France, but with France hosting the Faroe Islands in the next round, they can expect France to get three points. A win at home against Romania would clinch a spot in South Africa. Another tie, and it will come down to the last game on Wednesday October 14. Serbia goes to Lithuania and France hosts Austria. 

Serbia controls their own destiny and I would like to see them beat Romania to earn their place in the World Cup this summer!