Llodra closes on singles spot in Davis Cup final

Doubles specialist Michael Llodra’s timely run of fine form

could land him a singles start in the Davis Cup final.

Llodra qualified for his maiden Masters semifinal on Friday by

defeating 11th-ranked Nikolay Davydenko of Russia 7-5, 6-1, winning

praises from France Davis Cup captain Guy Forget.

That victory came a day after Llodra upset defending champion

Novak Djokovic in the previous round to reach his first Masters

quarterfinals in 41 appearances.

Forget said Llodra now has a good chance of being rewarded with

a singles spot in his squad for next month’s final against Serbia

in Belgrade.

”I’m not going to lie to you, he is earning points at the

moment,” Forget told reporters. ”But I also have to say that the

fast surface here suits him perfectly. We don’t know how fast the

court in Belgrade will be, we’ll only find out when we get

there.”

After Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was ruled out of the Dec. 3-5 final

with a knee injury, Gael Monfils is all but guaranteed to play

singles against the Serbs while Llodra is fighting with Gilles

Simon and Richard Gasquet for the remaining spot.

”Mika is a key player in doubles,” Forget said. ”As for the

singles, the player who’ll adapt the best will be granted a spot.

I’m in a comfortable position, with four or five players capable of

beating anybody in a good day.”

Known for his serve and volley style of play but also for his

inconsistency, the 34th-ranked Llodra thinks his play has finally

matured.

”I think I’m starting a new career,” said Llodra, after

hitting 30 winners and playing serve and volley the whole match

against Davydenko. ”I can even go higher. I’ve improved on many

little things, but the main thing is my mental progression.”

Forget said the 30-year-old Llodra, who played singles in

France’s 5-0 routs of defending champion Spain and Argentina in the

previous Davis Cup rounds, found a new level of confidence by

excelling in those matches.

”His win against Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals has

probably something to do with this,” Forget said. ”And I’m also

sure he is more serious at training.”

The French tennis federation said Forget will announce his squad

for the Davis Cup final on Nov. 23.