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By Rohit Sharma
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Former French star and now an ardent team supporter Amelie Mauresmo thinks the outcome of the opening rubber will majorly decide the outcome of the tie. Critics have already hailed the final as one of the closest in the recent Davis Cup history. And to add to the excitement, Janko Tipsarevic's selection over Viktor Troicki has also raised a few eyebrows. How viable will Tipsarevic's selection prove over Kremlin Cup winner Viktor Troicki? Will Monfils' strong groundstrokes and ferocity be overcome by the Serbian star and the howling crowd support? Read on to find out.
Serbian Janko Tipsarevic gave two of the finest performances of his Davis Cup career in the semifinal tie against Czech Republic where he beat Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek to help Serbia reach the final. Tipsarevic also produced sensational tennis in New York to upset home favourite Andy Roddick in the second round of the US Open. Tipsarevic's strength has always been his solid, razor sharp forehand and an equally, if not more, impressive backhand which do all the talking during points.
Now the interesting aspect is that his opponent has nearly the same set of effective arrows in his armour. Gael Monfils is considered one of the finest shotmakers in men's tennis today. With a confidence boosting win over Swiss maestro Roger Federer in Paris Masters, Monfils proved that he is capable of knocking out the big names in the game with his solid play and mental toughness. The Frenchman won all three of his previous singles rubbers against Philip Kohlschreber (in pre-quarterfinals), David Ferrer (quarterfinals) and David Nalbandian (in semifinals) to help his nation reach the final after eight years. France failed to defend the title in 2002 against Russia in the title tie.
The Head-to-Head between two players is also extremely fitting to the occasion. Tied at 2-2, the pair's last meeting came at the US Open third round where Monfils beat the Serbian in four closely contested sets. To say that Monfils' chances are stronger in this opening rubber may be an over-statement, since Tipsarevic's recent encouraging performance, coupled with the home court advantage gives an indication about the Serb's favourable situation. This really will prove to be an extremely crucial rubber for France, who are, at the moment, banking on their No.1 player for initial lead.
All said and done, Monfils' power packed week in Paris a fortnight ago makes him likelier to clinch the best of five match today.
TennisEarth.com's Pick - Monfils in four tightly contested sets.
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