Forget picks Gilles Simon for singles against US
ROQUEBRUNE, France (AP)
Gilles Simon will play singles for France against the United States in the Davis Cup quarterfinals on Friday despite nursing a sore back and having had little practice.
France captain Guy Forget chose the 13th-ranked Simon to meet No. 11 John Isner on Thursday ahead of lower-ranked Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.
Sixth-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be first on court at the Monte Carlo Country Club, where he'll take on 19-year-old Ryan Harrison, who will play in his first live Davis Cup rubber.
''I've been in his position before, and I know you can be easily inspired when you're at that age,'' Tsonga said. ''There will be a lot of emotion and it depends how he handles that.''
Simon replaced the injured Gael Monfils. He is 0-2 against Isner, one of the game's biggest servers.
''He has an advantage with his height and uses it very well. He knows his strengths,'' Simon said. ''His serve is a powerful weapon, it helps him to approach his service games very serenely, and it also helps him put an enormous amount of pressure on the return games. It's tough to get into a rhythm against him.''
Simon, who grew up in nearby Nice, has never played a Davis Cup match on home soil.
''It's the first time I'll be playing at home and I hope it makes a difference,'' he said.
American captain Jim Courier was also dealt a blow when Mardy Fish pulled out with fatigue this week.
''We're very prepared. We have a great team, a great coach and captain,'' said Harrison, whose only Davis cup appearance came in a dead reverse singles during the 5-0 sweep of Switzerland in February. ''I think we're as prepared as can be.''
Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, the top-ranked doubles pair, will play Benneteau and Llodra on Saturday. In Sunday's reverse singles, Isner opens against Tsonga and then Harrison faces Simon.
''It's a luxury to have Bob and Mike. It was a luxury I never had when I was a playing member of the Davis Cup team,'' Courier said. ''We tended to scrambled singles players together, and we didn't do very well. I have the utmost confidence in them. As a captain, having them on your side, it feels like you're almost cheating.''
The Bryans have seen enough of the French over the years, however, not to discount them.
France's victory in the doubles four years ago handed the Bryans only their second loss in Davis Cup, and they have not lost since. Llodra - who played alongside Arnaud Clement against them in 2008 - also played doubles against the United States way back in the 2002 semifinal, which France won 3-2.
''This is one of the toughest teams we'll be facing,'' Bob Bryan said. ''Llodra has been one of the biggest rivals over the last 14 years we've been playing. (We've) played him in big matches all over the world. This is another big one, we're expecting another tough match.''