French Davis Cup team captain Guy Forget and former winner Henri Leconte said France were ready to upset Serbia and their fiercely patriotic home crowd in the Friday to Sunday final in Belgrade.
The Serbians reached the world group for the first time only in 2008 and had never previously gone beyond the first round in the competition’s top tier before making this year’s final.
Nine-time winners France are looking for their first title since 2001.
“We are not afraid of anything, we know how good Novak [Djokovic] and the other [Serbian] boys are,” Forget told reporters after the team’s opening practice on Monday.
“We also know that when you play away the atmosphere is sometimes hard and you have to be ready. It’s going to be a great match, a tough match and you know we are really looking forward to it,” he said.
Serbia’s passionate 18,000 fans carried the team in their 3-2 semi-final win over the Czech Republic in the Belgrade Arena, but the French may find the atmosphere less intimidating with the venue’s capacity reduced to 15,000 for the final.
The Serbian Tennis Association (TSS) released only 5,080 tickets on general sale while the rest have been distributed to various sponsors, tennis clubs, staff and volunteers as well as 1,600 French fans expected to make the trip.
Many seats have been allocated for security stewards, press facilities and to install the hawk-eye system.
Leconte, who led France to a Davis Cup title in 1991 when they beat the US in the final, said he expected a spectacular final between two in-form teams in Belgrade.
“I think we will have a weekend of great tennis because Djokovic is playing very well and the French team have also been very well prepared in the last 10 days, they are very keen to go out there and do their best to win,” he said.
“With the home crowd behind Serbia, they are the favorites but that’s normal and we have to respect it because it was also very difficult for [Pete] Sampras when we played the United States in Lyon in 1991,” Leconte said.
France reached the final this year with a 5-0 rout of Argentina after drubbing champions Spain by the same score.
They are still without the injured Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but he will be in Belgrade lending support from the sidelines as compatriots Gael Monfils and Michael Llodra battle Djokovic and company.
The French have a history of upsetting the big guns. In 2001, they won the Davis Cup in Australia, on grass, with Nicolas Escude beating then-world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.
Leconte, who still plays on the veterans’ circuit, said earlier: “The key is Jo [Tsonga]. He has not played the last ties, but he is the one starting everything. He is the one saying ‘guys, we need to go get that Cup.’ This is really important.”