Team tennis reaches the end of the era this weekend with the last Davis Cup final of its kind taking place in Lille.

This time next year we’ll be in the middle of the new Davis Cup Finals, a week-long event featuring 18 teams from which the champion will emerge.

Gone will be the factor that has made the Davis Cup such compelling viewing over the years – it’s format of two singles, one doubles and the reverse singles, all played over the best-of-five sets across three days.

But, for now, France and Croatia give us the swansong to the current era, meeting each other on an indoor claycourt in the Stade Pierre-Mauroy – the home ground of Lille’s football team – in front of more than 26,000 spectators.

With two of the world’s top-12 singles players, Marin Cilic and Borna Coric, in their ranks, it is the visitors who start favourites to wrest the famous trophy from the holders and that seems a fair assessment.

France will missing their top three with Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon all absent. In something of a surprise move, captain Yannick Noah has also left Lucas Pouille – the highest-ranked player in his squad – out of Friday’s singles.

Instead, Jeremy Chardy will take on Coric before Jo-Wilfried Tsonga meets Cilic. However, neither Frenchman has much form to draw upon.

France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (L) and Croatia's Borna Coric shake hands next to the Davis Cup trophy on the eve of the Davis Cup tennis final between France and Croatia at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium

Since reaching the semi-finals at Queen’s Club in June, Chardy has won just five of 15 matches, failing to win two in a row. Tsonga, meanwhile, is just 1-4 since his return to the tour from long-term injury in September. He hasn’t contested a best-of-five-set match since January’s Australian Open and there must be at least some question marks about his ability to go deep this weekend, particularly given he appeared to be suffering from a physical ailment in training earlier this week.

In short, it’s not a great-looking French singles line-up, and even though their doubles pairing of Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert is a strong one – the duo were a point from winning last week’s ATP Finals – Croatia look a stronger all-round package and it is certainly worth noting that Mahut and Herbert’s only Davis Cup loss as a pair came at the hands of Cilic and Ivan Dodig, another doubles specialist, in the 2016 semi-final.

France do not seem to have secured a major advantage with their choice of clay, although it can certainly be argued they will be better prepared with both Cilic and Coric (as an alternate) having been playing on hardcourts in London last week.

You can pick other holes in Croatia, too, by saying Cilic has been mentally frail in recent months, while Coric’s consistency is still something he needs to work on.

But still, these are better players than those France have at their disposal and it’s not that hard to suggest they should be shorter than 1/2. They could well go off shorter come first ball at 1300 GMT on Friday.

Cilic is 1/3 to extend his hold over Tsonga, whom he leads 5-2 on their head-to-head record, while Coric is 2/5 to win on Friday. Basically they are two fairly strong favourites and only one team has ever won the Davis Cup final from 2-0 down and that was in 1939.

If 1/2 is too short for you, then there’s potential value in the Tsonga-Cilic match on Friday.

With Cilic’s nerves having been too evident of late, I see him making a slow start against a player likely to fade as time wears on given his lack of match sharpness.

Tsonga has won the first set in three of his five matches since his return to the tour, losing two of those, so 6/4 about him claiming the opener looks to have potential.

Given Tsonga isn’t going to be at his peak fitness-wise, an alternative is Cilic to win in four sets, which can be backed at 13/5.


Croatia to win

Tsonga to win the first set v Cilic

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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