LILLE, France — The French tried everything to thwart Roger Federer's attempt to win the Davis Cup.
First, they first picked clay for the contest in the northern French city of Lille and decided to host the tie in a football stadium to get maximum support from the home fans. Then they gathered for a one-week training camp to strengthen the team's cohesion ahead of the final.
It didn't work.
"We saw how quickly things changed. At the start of the week, the papers were full of stories about Roger's back and the French team being ready to go to war," said Switzerland's No. 2 Stan Wawrinka. "At the end of the day, we saw the opposite. We handled the tie as usual, with a lot of discussions between us."
After France failed in its bid to win the competition for the 10th time, following losses in the finals against Russia in 2002 and Serbia four years ago, questions are already surfacing over captain Arnaud Clement's management.
Clement faced criticism from the local media on Sunday for failing to reveal a forearm injury sustained by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before the competition, and then deciding to send him out for the opening singles match on Friday.
Tsonga, who picked the injury during the training camp, said it was his decision to play. He lost his opener against Wawrinka and was replaced by Richard Gasquet for the doubles rubber that the French lost on Saturday as Switzerland took a 2-1 lead.
Federer then clinched the decisive point with a straight sets win over Gasquet.
"As captain, I will, of course, think about it. I will question myself and think about how I could have been better strategically before the tie, during the training sessions, and during the matches," Clement said. "I need to be better in the future. But for the time being, the first feeling is that Switzerland was better than we were during the whole weekend."
Tsonga's injury was not confirmed by the French team until Sunday, although French tennis federation president Jean Gachassin caused confusion when he announced that Tsonga was suffering from an elbow injury immediately after Saturday's doubles.
Clement said he wanted to keep Tsonga's injury a secret to surprise the Swiss. Federer admitted he was expecting to take on Tsonga on Sunday, but dealing with Gasquet proved not to be a problem as he dispatched the Frenchman 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
With plenty of quality players available, the French had many alternatives to the option of sticking with Tsonga. France reserve player Gilles Simon ducked the question when asked if he thought he should have been given his chance.
"It's a long time since I stopped thinking that way," said Simon, who defeated Wawrinka last month at the Shanghai Masters. "It was Jo's decision to play. There is no need to start thinking about what would have happened if. Nobody cares about that."
The only positive point for the French came from Gael Monfils, who defeated Federer to level the tie at 1-1 after the first day. The ashen-faced Monfils had only one word to sum up his weekend: "Disappointed."