Australia draw France in Davis Cup

Australia have been handed a tough opening tie on their return to the Davis Cup World Group, drawn to travel to France in their first round matchup. The 28-time winners of the international team tournament will need to bring some of their best tennis if they’re to progress beyond the first round.

Having beaten Poland in Warsaw to secure their return to the top-tier of the event for the first time since 2007, team captain Pat Rafter would have been hoping for a favourable opponent. While they managed to avoid the competition’s top-ranked nations there was little luck for the Aussies, as the fifth-seeded France team will be a difficult proposition on home soil.

The draw means Australia will have to face the likes of Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon when the Davis Cup gets under way on 31 January, following the Australian Open.

They will also likely have to play on clay – the Aussies least favourite surface, in order to retain their status in the World Group. Despite this Australia will take heart from the fact they were able to navigate their way past Uzbekistan and Poland on clay en route their qualification.

Australia secured their place in the draw on the back of their 4-1 win over Poland. Our contingent of Bernard Tomic, Lleyton Hewitt, Chris Guccione and Nick Kyrgios claiming all four singles ties in the playoff encounter.

The Aussies were spearheaded by Bernard Tomic, who won both of his singles matches, while veteran Hewitt and Kyrgios, who was making his national debut, were both successful in their matches.

Speaking ahead of the World Group draw, which saw Australia included for the first time in six years, Captain Pat Rafter said it would be crucial in determining our potential success.

"We have a very good team but you do not want to play Spain in Spain on clay," said Rafter. "There are a few matches we don't want, that no one wants.

"But outside the top couple of teams, we have a realistic chance of winning.”

The last two meetings between Australia and France, who are nine-time champions of the event, were both in Davis Cup finals. The French triumphed 3-2 in Melbourne to capture the title 2001, while Australia won by the same scoreline in Nice two years earlier.

A win over France will see the Aussies progress to a quarter-final match up against the winners of the tie between Spain and Germany. Meanwhile a loss would force them back into the World Group playoffs in order to retain their status for the 2015 event.

While the venue for the event is yet to be decided, you can be sure no matter what court the French choose we’ll be screening all the tennis action of the new year at Strathfield Sports Club.

Damien Bellemore