Llodra-Monaco to start Davis Cup
Doubles specialist Michael Llodra of France will play Juan Monaco of Argentina in the opening singles of their Davis Cup semifinal.
France captain Guy Forget picked Llodra and U.S. Open quarterfinalist Gael Monfils to play the singles on the indoor hard court of the Palais des Sports.
In Friday's second singles, Monfils will face David Nalbandian, who has won three singles matches and one doubles match in the competition this year despite missing most of last year following hip surgery.
''To pit Michael against Monaco and Gael against Nalbandian is the best strategy to win the first two points,'' Forget said. ''I want to make a big impact on Friday and we are sending out our best players, our cavalry.''
Llodra will also feature in the doubles alongside veteran Arnaud Clement against Argentine pair Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos.
Monfils - who is unbeaten in Davis Cup this year - and Llodra also played the two first singles last July when France routed defending champion Spain 5-0 on the same surface to reach the semis.
Gilles Simon was named as a substitute while former French No.1 Richard Gasquet was left out of the team.
Llodra's big serve and razor-sharp volleys are expected to pose serious problems to Monaco, who came back to competition in August after nursing a sore wrist.
Monaco leads 2-1 in their head-to-head but Llodra beat him in straight sets last year in Lyon before wasting a two-set lead earlier this year at the Australian Open where the Frenchman was hampered by a foot injury.
France, which won the last of its nine Davis Cup titles in 2001, has an unbeaten record against Argentina. The countries faced each other four times, with their most recent tie in 1982 in Buenos Aires.
''It's going to be tough,'' Nalbandian said. ''I think it's going to be tougher than Russia (in the quarterfinals), but we have to try to believe in the team.''
Argentina never won the Davis Cup but reached the final twice in the last four years.
Without the injured Julien Benneteau, Forget had to change his doubles lineup and gave Clement a chance to play his first Davis Cup match since he and Llodra beat the brothers Mike and Bob Bryan in a 4-1 loss against the United States in the 2008 competition.
''It's great to be back in the team, but the most important thing is to perform well on the court,'' Clement said. ''This is a Davis Cup semifinal and I have huge responsibilities. I can feel a lot of pressure.''
Llodra and Clement will be paired for the ninth time in the Davis Cup and will be looking to extend their 6-2 winning record against Schwank and Zeballos, who reached the U.S. Open semifinals this month.
The winner of the series will face either Serbia or the Czech Republic in the final.