Yannick Noah had a simple explanation for the relaxed approach
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ Yannick Noah had a simple explanation for the relaxed approach France is taking to its meeting with the United States in the first round of the Davis Cup.
``We don’t have anything to lose,″ said Noah, captain of the French team led by Guy Forget and Cedric Pioline.
``We’re playing a team that is supposed to beat us and that is playing before their crowd. We can very well lose 5-0, but we could just as well win 3-2 or 4-1.″
The United States is an overwhelming favorite, even with Australian Open finalists Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras taking time off. Gullikson’s team consists of Jim Courier and Todd Martin and the doubles pair of Jared Palmer and Richey Reneberg.
Gullikson, however, dismisses the notion that the Americans won’t be challenged. He remembers what happened in 1991 when the French beat the Americans in the Davis Cup final.
``Bookmakers make the odds,″ he said Thursday. ``That really doesn’t concern us.
``Whether we’re playing a team that we’re supposed to dominate or that is supposed to dominate us doesn’t really matter. We’re coming in here to play our best tennis.″
Noah also knows what happened four years ago. He was captain of the first French team to win the Davis Cup in 59 years. That squad included three of the four players currently representing France _ Forget, Oliver Delaitre and Arnaud Boetsch. The other player is Pioline, who is playing instead of Henri Leconte.
Pioline, a one-time U.S. Open finalist, was paired in today’s opening match against Martin at the 6,000-seat Bayfront Center. Forget faced Courier in the second match.
Palmer and Reneberg, winners of the Australian Open doubles title last week, will face Forget and Delaitre in Saturday’s doubles.
Sunday’s singles matchups on the indoor carpet surface that both teams said favors the Americans are Martin vs. Forget and Courier vs. Pioline.
On paper, the United States should have no problem advancing to the second round against the winner of the first-round match between the Czech Republic and Italy. Courier is No. 12 in the world and Martin is No. 13, while Forget and Pioline are ranked 37th and 50th, respectively.
Other factors that point toward a victory for the Americans is the team’s 6-0 record when Courier is in the lineup and its 11-match home winning streak. The last U.S. Davis Cup loss on American soil was a 1987 setback to West Germany in Hartford, Conn.
Noah showed how important Saturday’s doubles may be to France’s chances when he paired Forget with Delaitre to face Palmer and Reneberg, who are No. 1 after their first Grand Slam title.
``That does give us confidence, but I don’t think it means anything to them,″ Reneberg said. ``We expect a very tough match.″
The Germany-Croatia match is one of eight first-round World Group matches being played this week.
Rain washed put off the opening singles matches in Durban between South and Australia. South Africa is playing in the World Group for the first time.
Defending champion Sweden plays Denmark in Copenhagen. Sweden is going with the same team that beat Russia for the title in December: Stefan Edberg and Magnus Larsson in singles and Jan Apell and Jonas Bjorkman in doubles.
Russia, which faces Belgium in Brussels, also has its 1994 final lineup: Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Alexander Volkov, Andrei Olhvoskiy and Andrei Chesnokov.
Other matchups include the Netherlands vs. Switzerland in Geneva and Austria vs. Spain in Vienna.
In Manila, the Philippines and Japan split their opening singles matches in Asia-Oceania Zone One. Japan’s No. 1 player, Shuzo Matsuoka, beat Filipino Robert Angelo 6-4, 6-4, 6-0, while Joseph Lizardo countered by beating Ryuso Tsujino 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.
In the same zone, South Korea won both singles matches against Indonesia in the Seoul. Yoon Yong-il played a strong game to defeat Indonesian Bonit Wiryawan 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in the first match at the indoor Seoul Gymnasium.
Lee Hyung-taik of South Korea wrapped up the second match 6-2, 7-6, 6-2 against Suwandi Suwandi.
Sri Lanka took a 2-0 lead over Iran in the first round of the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Zone Group II on clay in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Rohan De Silva beat Mohammad Reza Tavakoli 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-2), 6-2 after Jayendra Wijesekera beat Iran’s Ramin Raziyani of 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (7-2), 6-4.
Thailand and Malaysia each won a singles match in Asia-Oceania Zone Group Two.
Thailand’s national champion, Narathorn Srichaphand, beat Ramaiah Ramachandran 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, and Malaysia’s No. 1 player, Adam Malik, beat Thailand’s Vorapol Thongkhamchu 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 and 6-4.