Australia have been humbled in their Davis Cup tie against France, going down to the nine-time winners 5-0 on the weekend. Defeats to youngsters Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis completed the whitewash, in what was Australia’s first appearance in the World Group since 2007.
Pat Rafter’s team had been dealt a difficult assignment, playing away to the world’s fifth ranked nation on clay. The magnitude of the task compounded by the absence of an injured Bernard Tomic. Despite reveling in our “under-dog” status, Australia failed to muster much of a bark, managing to claim just a single set across the five matches.
Loses from veteran Lleyton Hewitt and Kyrgios on the opening day proved too much to overcome, with the French gaining an unassailable lead when they were able to overcome the pairing of Hewitt and Chris Guccione in the doubles. Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who were both victors in the singles on Friday, combined for a four-set win.
With the remaining matches being dead-rubbers, Rafter gave Kyrgios another opportunity in the singles and handed a debut to Kokkinakis. While the 17-year-old was easily accounted for by Julien Benneteau 6-4 6-1, Kyrgios fared slightly better against Gael Monfils, losing 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.
Australia’s Davis Cup captain was disappointed with the overall result but hoped the experience would help the development of our immerging talent.
"It would have been nice to have won but they got a great experience and great exposure to something that's very difficult to get at that age," Rafter said.
"That's the important part of it. It builds to the future and gives us a bit of depth.
"We've always said it's going to take two or three years for these boys to develop, just give them time and it will happen."
Australia had not suffered the ignominy of a 5-0 series defeat since 2006 and will now return to the World Group playoffs in September. Their opponent is yet to be decided as the 2003 winners attempt to return to the top-tier of the team event in 2015.
While Australia were certainly outclassed across the three days at La Roche sur Yon, there was certainly no disgrace in going down to a team that boasted two players inside the Men’s top-ten in Gasquet and Tsonga. The French will now host Germany in the quarter-finals.
Damien Bellemore