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Roger Federer made all the difference: Forget

Toulouse: Switzerland’s Roger Federer made the difference as the team spirit which guided France to three Davis Cup finals in four years showed signs of cracking during a shock quarter final defeat at the weekend.

The French failed to beat Federer in all three of his matches as last year’s runners-up went down 2-3 in Toulouse.

The home team’s preparations had been plagued by tension within the team and injuries culminating with the loss of their No. 1 Sebastien Grosjean on Sunday.

“Roger went bang, bang, bang for three matches. He served harder, jumped higher... When we compare his performance to ours, we can see the difference,” said Forget who guided France to the title in 2001.

Federer beat Nicolas Escude in four sets in the first singles, assumed a leading role alongside his captain Marc Rosset in the doubles and tore into Fabrice Santoro 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 in Sunday’s decisive fourth rubber.

“Roger has improved a lot since the French defeated us in the quarter final two years ago,” Rosset said. “We shall have to store him in ice until the semi-finals.”

With the Swiss leading 2-1, Grosjean withdrew from the first reverse singles against Federer because of a leg injury. Forget replaced him with Santoro, who was no match for the Swiss No. 1.

“I only had my courage,” said the 33-year-old, who is ranked 51 in the world. “My only chance to win was to see him fall and break his leg.”

But the problems in the French team had begun much earlier. In February, Escude withdrew from the Marseille Open, putting the blame on being overworked in the Davis Cup.

“I’m happy to play in the Davis Cup but I don’t want it to spoil my personal career. I think there is something wrong with the preparation for the Davis Cup,” he said.

The player, whose heroics in the 2001 final gave France their shock win over Australia, received little sympathy from teammate Santoro.

“Nicolas has given a lot to Davis Cup and Davis Cup has given a lot to him,” Santoro said.

“The French players as a team have a chance of winning the Davis Cup but we’re not good enough to win the Grand Slams. After being on the tour for so many years, I’ve won two Davis Cups and not many players can achieve that.”

The pair was supposed to be France’s best weapon against Switzerland but Forget made the surprise decision of picking Escude rather than Llodra to play alongside Santoro and France lost the match to Federer and Rosset.

Commenting on the defeat, L’Equipe wrote on Monday: “Grosjean paid the price because his injury hampered his clay-court season.

“This time he refused to take the risk. One has to respect his choice but it’s a sign of a real change in the team’s spirit.

“The French players and coaches gave everything for the Davis Cup over the last two years. They were rewarded by a win and a final but they now want to give priority to their individual careers.”

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