Tennis / Davis Cup / France and Tsonga Await Israeli Aces

Heroes of Japan now face tough draw

If Israel has been lucky in recent years in Davis Cup draws, luck deserted it yesterday as the draw in London for the 2013 Davis Cup World Group produced an away encounter with the mighty French on February 1-3. While the victor will continue on to the quarterfinals, the loser will have to play later in the year in playoffs to decide which national teams stay among the elite of world tennis.

France boasts 10 of the top 100 singles players in the world, headed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world's seventh-ranked player who reached the semifinal of the last Wimbledon tournament and has played in the final of the Australian Open. Other singles standouts include Richard Gasquet (ranked 14th in the world ), Gilles Simon (20th ), Jeremy Chardy (30th ), Julien Benneteau (34th ) and Gael Monfils (44th ). Michael Llodra may be ranked only 110th in the world, but he is an excellent doubles players (ranked 15th ) and has had a particularly successfully season.

France beat Canada 4-1 in this year's Davis Cup World Group, only to lose its quarterfinal 3-2 to the United States in Monte Carlo. France has won the Davis Cup no fewer than nine times, the last being in 2001 (and the first in 1927 ). France has won all its three meetings with Israel in the tournament, the most recent being a 4-1 victory at Ramat Gan in 1998.

"It's one of the hardest draws we could have received," admitted Andy Ram yesterday. "France has a great Davis Cup tradition, with very experienced, good players. I'm disappointed that yet again we'll be playing away from home. Having said that, the victory in Japan has given us a great appetite to continue succeeding with this special national team. I believe that we'll play with honor against the French."

Amir Weintraub, the hero of the victory in Japan, said: "It's a very tough draw, especially as we all wanted to play in Israel. We'll do everything we can to continue with our good performances from the last few matches."

The other teams drawn together were: Canada vs. Spain, Italy vs. Croatia, Belgium vs. Serbia, United States vs. Brazil, Argentina vs. Germany, Switzerland vs. the Czech Republic, and Kazakhstan vs. Austria.