Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Groupe II – Monaco vs Finland
The official Davis Cup opening ceremony was on Friday, March 6, 2015, at the Monte-Carlo Country Club (MCCC), in the presence of HSH Prince Albert II, Mrs. Elisabeth-Ann de Massy, President of the Monegasque Tennis Federation and the MCCC, other distinguished personalities, and loyal fans from Monaco and Finland that packed the bleachers in court No.18. The weather forecast called for warm sunny days, and there was an exciting ambiance of nationalism, and supporters, who branded their team colours and noise makers, were encouraged to get loud and proud, between points of course! Both teams had high respect for each other even if the visiting team was considered favorite, were prepared for to fight like gladiators on the red clay, and they certainly did, offering the public a passionate show of great tennis. Finland was victorious with a final score of 3-2. Like they say in English, Monaco came “close but no cigar”.
Teams tied after first pair of singles
The competition debuted right after the ceremony with the two first singles. To no surprise favorite Jarkko Nieminen from Finland (ranked 70th in the world and who had been in the top 50 during ten years, with a highest rank of 13th), defeated young Monegasque Romain Arneodo (No. 610), in three straight sets 6/1 6/4 6/3. In the second singles Monegasque top player Benjamin Balleret, better known as “Ballou” and ranked No.364, won over Finnish Micke Kontinen, the youngest in his team (ranked No. 417), in four sets: 6/2 2/6 6/2 & 6/4. At the end of the day the score was 1-1 as expected.
Balleret & Couillard received awards
Saturday was the second day of the tournament and it started with a special awards ceremony where Guillaume Couillard and Benjamin Balleret received trophies directly from the hands of Mrs Elisabeth-Ann de Massy, in recognition for the continuous participation in Davis Cup competition representing Monaco. The fans in the tribune, including Prince Albert, gave them a standing ovation!
The Monegasques had their chances
The doubles match was played on Saturday, March 7, and the Finnish pair Nieminen/Kontinen (No. 44th and No.220 in doubles respectively), won over the Monegasque duo Balleret/Arneodo (No.140 and No. 179 in doubles respectively) in five sets: 7/6 6/7 6/7 6/4 & 6/5 in 4 hours. Monaco played a great match and got to an advantageous position at 4-2 in the defining 5th set, but the Finnish team came back with a vengeance and succeeded in collecting another point for their country. The score was 1-2 benefiting the visitors.
Jarkko Nieminen offered victory to Finland
On Sunday, March 8, the two last singles were scheduled to be played, starting with Benjamin Balleret confronting Jarkko Nieminen. The experienced Jarkko took the first 2 sets with ease with Balleret making many mistakes, but the Monegasque became more forceful on the third reaching 5-3 & 30/0, before surrendering to his opponent, who won in 3 straight sets 6/1 6/2 7/6, thus conquering victory for Finland. The last singles was played (over a total of 3 sets) even if it did not count, and Romain Arneodo defeated Henrik Sillanpaa 1/6 6/4 6/2, with the final score of 3-2 to Finland.
Playoff in July at the MCCC
On the second tour Finland will play Portugal away. While Monaco will face Morocco (who lost to Portugal) in the playoffs July 17-19, 2015, at the MCCC, and the Monegasques will need to win to keep their place in the second division in the Europe/Africa zone. While Finland will play Portugal away. Mark your calendars!