A Beginner’s Guide to the French Davis Cup Disaster in Guadeloupe
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
The Davis Cup by BNP Paribas First Round tie between France and Canada is already a French tragicomedy, and the rubbers don’t even go on for another eight days.
The fans rubbers should have gone on earlier, since this tie has been building up into a major Montagne de Merde since Day One.
The most important event in Caribbean tennis history deserved better than this.
On December 4, USA Today declared “France to host Davis Cup tie vs. Canada in Guadeloupe.” For the first time in the 112-year history of French Davis Cup, a French-hosted tie would be held off of the mainland and out of Roland Garros, in the Caribbean island chain of Guadeloupe in the region of Outre-Mer. The town of Baie-Mahault would serve as the host at the 8,000 seat Vélodrome Amédée Detraux from March 4-6.
Certainly exciting news for most. But for France, with the taste of defeat still in their mouths after last summer’s quarter final loss to eventual champion Great Britain and the Brothers Murray, the excitement didn’t last long.
On December 26, Vavel worried that France May Not Play Davis Cup In Guadeloupe, citing the costs associated with hosting the tie in the French department “as high as four and a half million euros” and that Guadeloupe’s government “has told the French Tennis Federation that they will not be hosting the tie.”
On December 27, Sports Business Daily passed on a L’Equipe report that Guadeloupe Regional President Confirms Island Will Host France, Canada Davis Cup Tie after Guadeloupe Regional President Ary Chalus received assurances that the République Française would pick up any extra costs associated with the event.
On January 7, the New York Times jinxed the whole thing to bloody hell by declaring Guadeloupe as #11 of the 52 Places to Go in 2016, specifically mentioning the tie:
Davis Cup tennis fans will descend on Guadeloupe’s Vélodrome Amédée Detreaux for the France-Canada match — the first time the country has ever hosted the tournament outside of continental France. And it’s all in the midst of the islands’ verdant, dramatic landscapes and sand beaches.
Turns out the landscapes aren’t the only dramatic thing about Guadeloupe.
And then Melbourne happened.
Gael Monfils press-shared some locker room banter he’d had with Canada’s Milos Raonic about the Canadian favoring the Caribbean venue after his Australian Open loss to Raonic, and the plot took a darker turn.
Eh Game’s Stephanie Myles wrote about it in After their match, Gaël Monfils drags Milos Raonic into his country’s Davis Cup drama on January 27. According to Myles, Monfils snitched:
What’s too bad for us is that every time, we miss the boat. Milos, we were talking (in the locker room), and he said if it was played in Europe, ‘no chance’ he’d come, ” Monfils said, telling tales out of school.
Yannick Noah was forced to defend himself on Monfils’ broadside and the AFP reported that Noah shrugs off Monfils’ Guadeloupe Davis Cup blast on January 28. The 1983 French Open Champion was incredulous about the controversy, telling the press:
“We decided to play on clay for technical reasons. We are going there to try and win,” he said.
“After that comes the moods of each other, on the court and off it. To go and play in Guadeloupe, for me, is fantastic.
“People who do not say this is great do not understand. I do not understand the problem.”
and then there’s the part that makes even less sense. The AFP article mentioned that
Monfils, whose father is from Guadeloupe, kicked off the dispute by saying: “With great honesty, we are not all necessarily happy to be going to Guadeloupe.”
The 29-year-old even claimed that “80% of players initially did not want to play”.
And the fun’s not over yet.
Reuters reported on February 4 that French federation director could be sacked, and sack him they did, as AFP reported on February 13 that indeed, French Open director Ysern officially fired. The “controversial choice” of Guadeloupean venue and the choice to replace Davis Cup Captain Arnaud Clement with tennis star turned pop star Yannick Noah could have been among the factors that led to his dismissal.
It was inevitable that all this controversy would regurgitate on itself when Captain Noah formally picked Monfils for the tie as reported by Tennis.com on February 17 (Noah picks Monfils for Davis Cup despite his criticism of venue).
All of this is so rich, it seemed that the French had deliberately set themselves up for failure or were playing such a rich con game of lowering expectations.
Whether or not this this Tennis Federation dumpster fire would continue to burn seemed to take a turn in France’s favor when Eh Game’s Myles told us that Milos Raonic withdraws from his second consecutive ATP Tour event, in Acapulco on February 19. Would Raonic skip Guadeloupe and return the gift that Monfils had described in the locker-side chat back in Melbourne? Was this entire Monfils montage de la merde going to end up being completely inconsequential after all? Fans like me hoped it would not.
So when Tennis Canada announced the lineups on Tuesday, with France having announced a week earlier (Star-studded teams announced for Davis Cup tie between Canada and France), the only name to look for was Raonic. With the #1 Canadian in the mix but not a sure thing to actually play , this soap opera will stay on the air until at least the moment Raonic does or does not hit his first ball in play at the tie, and longer if he plays well.
Steph Myles with this ominous description on Tuesday:
Meanwhile, Raonic is in Los Angeles surrounded by his medical team, battling the clock to be healthy enough to be able to play at least one, ideally two, best-of-five set rubbers on red clay in the Caribbean heat and humidity.
I envision him at Cedars Sinai in ICU, his limp body “battling” for survival–for at least one five-setter.
For all the hysterics, 75% of French Fans think Noah will be a good Cup Captain. For all the hype and gripe, it’s still Raonic, Pospisil, Dancevic and Nestor versus Gasquet, Monfils, Tsonga and Simon playing tennis on a small island. Who knew it could cause such big problems?
On Tuesday, Davis Cup tweeted the following:
#FRACAN France is hosting a #DavisCup tie in Guadeloupe for the first time. Hard to see why it took them so long… pic.twitter.com/f8i9t8zoI6
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) February 23, 2016
Now you know why it took them so long, and you can imagine how long it will be before Outre-Mer sees anything more than an ATP Challenger again. Yannick Noah, Gilbert Yseren and, to a larger extent, Guadeloupeans are the victims of this on-again, off-again, “wish I was not here” juvenalian satire. Having extensively visited Guadeloupe, for all of its beauty, the interior resembles a banlieue with a view. It boasts an average annual income is $9,000. Monfils’ bemusing choice to protest pro tennis in his paternal ancestral homeland and chalk it up to competitive advantage aside, for French Tennis, the opportunity to reach out to the lesser-privileged citizens of their nation has come with a big dump in the local Ti Punch. Merci, Monfils.
Note: Tennis Atlantic will provide limited on-site coverage of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas First Round tie between France and Canada from Guadeloupe.