Home court advantage
One factor is home court advantage. The French have it, and have chosen to play on indoor red clay at Lille's, Stade Pierre Mauroy stadium. The stadium has a minimum capacity of 27,000, meaning it is very likely the 2014 Davis Cup will break the record attendance for the tournament, set in Sevilla back in 2004.
One problem for bettors and bookmakers is there is no historical court data, meaning it will be difficult to evaluate its speed. However, with the tie being played indoors, conditions should be slightly quicker than the average outdoor red clay, but until the matches are in-play, it’s impossible to make further assessment. Historically Switzerland's Roger Federer prefers the courts to play as fast as possible, while Stan Wawrinka – as mentioned in previous articles – struggles on quicker surfaces, while the French players are generally more accustomed to clay courts.
Benneteau could hold the key in the doubles
The Davis Cup format is the best of five rubbers – five sets per game. Unlike the women's Fed Cup, bettors should be aware that the Davis Cup doubles game is scheduled on the Saturday, in-between the two singles days. This means it is advantageous for a nation to pick doubles specialists, as they will have an impact on the final outcome.
The deadline for team submissions is November 11th. The Swiss team will almost certainly be a combination of Federer, Wawrinka and the much lower-ranked Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer. Federer and Wawrinka will play two singles games apiece, and depending on the score after day one, may be expected to play the doubles given the weaknesses of Chiudinelli and Lammer – they only tend to play dead rubbers or doubles matches against mediocre nations.
It is advantageous for a nation to pick a doubles specialist
In comparison the French will pick between five players. In the semi-final they selected Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau, however, both Gasquet and Monfils have suffered recently from injuries and form. Therefore Gilles Simon, who reached the final of the Shanghai Masters in October - losing in two tie-breaks to Federer - may have played his way into captain Arnaud Clement’s plans.
Given the importance of the doubles game on Saturday it could be pivotal that the French are expected to select a doubles specialist in Benneteau, while the Swiss aren't. He is by far the highest ranked doubles player in the final, and could be expected to partner Tsonga – who is unbeaten in Davis Cup doubles. In addition, Gasquet also has a positive career doubles record in the Davis Cup, meaning the French should be favourites.
Federer – a one-man band
France vs. Switzerland squad statistics (Stats based on last 12 months unless stated)
Compared to the French team, Federer's combined hold/break stats on clay highlight his superior quality, with Monfils his closest competitor, 4.5% worse off from the same 12-month win/loss surface record. These statistics alongside his magnificent 37-7 singles record stress why he should be a strong favourite for both his singles games.
It is also evident that France’s strength lies in their squad depth. All five squad contenders are ranked inside the top 30 in the world, compared to just two for Switzerland. The impact of this is emphasised by comparing Wawrinka to the French players.
The 2014 Australian Open winner - who historically has strong clay stats - had a mediocre season on the dirt and has similar stats to the majority of the French squad, with only Julien Benneteau producing much worse stats - but as mentioned earlier, he will only play the doubles game.
Bettors must decide if Federer's individual brilliance will be more of an influence than France's overall team strength, especially given Wawrinka's poor clay form.
Wawrinka’s struggles could expose the Swiss
Stan Wawrinka’s last 5 matches:
|Paris||Indoor Hard||1.564||Kevin Anderson||Lost||7-6, 5-7, 6-7|
|Paris||Indoor Hard||1.443||Dominic Thiem||Won||6-4, 7-6|
|Basel||Indoor Hard||1.351||Mikhail Kukushkin||Lost||4-6, 7-6, 3-6|
|Shanghai||Outdoor Hard||1.611||Gilles Simon||Lost||7-5, 5-7, 4-6|
|Tokyo||Outdoor Hard||1.083||Tatsuma||Lost||5-7, 2-6|
With four defeats in his last five matches, Wawrinka won't arrive at the final with much confidence, unless he performs better than expected at the O2 in London.
Wawrinka’s form and mediocre record in Davis Cup matches will be seen as a big positive for the French. With squad members Chiudinelli and Lammer ranked extremely low at singles, Wawrinka is an automatic pick for captain Severin Luthi, despite his current issues, and illustrates how important strength in depth is in the Davis Cup format.
Wawrinka’s form and mediocre record in Davis Cup matches will be seen as a big positive for the French
If Wawrinka's form doesn’t improve in London it could impact on the Davis Cup outright winner prices.
After a poor end to the year and weaker than normal clay stats, bettors must decide if Wawrinka is vulnerable in the singles, and if so, can the Swiss rely solely on Federer to earn the points needed for victory?
Fatigue could be an issue
Another aspect to consider is fatigue. Both Wawrinka and Federer are involved in the ATP World Tour Finals - held two weeks prior to the Davis Cup - while none of the French team have qualified.
In addition, Wawrinka and Federer are expected to play both singles games, and perhaps even the doubles - meaning they could play a potential three games in three days. If these games each went to a deciding set, that could equate to a massive 15 sets in three days. Tsonga may also be expected to do this, but at least Clement has realistic options to rest him if needed, which can't be said for Luthi.
Bettors should consider how this intense schedule could affect both Wawrinka and Federer mentally and physically, especially given the latters age?
While Switzerland justifiably opened as favourites - with two ATP top five players in their squad - the French team will fancy their chances of claiming a tenth Davis Cup title. Bettors must decide if the five key factors mentioned in this article are enough to turn the odds in the hosts favour?