France and U.S. to face-off at Roland Garros in Davis Cup semis

Friday, April 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ Defending champion France will play the United States at Roland Garros, the home of the French Open, in their semifinal tie of the Davis Cup, Sept. 20-22.

"It's the greatest meeting possible and imaginable," said the president of the French Tennis Federation, Christian Bimes, after announcing the decision to hold the tie on Paris' red clay courts.

The last encounter between the two countries at Roland Garros was in the final in 1932, when France won 3-2. France hasn't played there since 1982, when it defeated the Czech Republic in a quarterfinal tie.

"Playing the United States on clay, it's a strategic choice," Bimes told a news conference. "Pete Sampras will ask himself many questions before this meeting."

Sampras has a men's record 13 Grand Slam titles but has never advanced past the semifinals at the French Open. Last year he exited in the second round.

French players are traditionally strong on clay, a slow surface. But Nicolas Escude, who clinched the Davis Cup title for France in last year's final against Australia, was dropped from the team for this year's first-round tie against the Netherlands because of his poor record on the surface.

Bimes said he thought Andre Agassi would be tempted to play in the tie because "a meeting like that can't be missed."

Agassi didn't play in the quarterfinal tie against Spain, which the U.S. won 3-1. The fifth match was canceled because of rain.

Bimes also said he didn't think the sometimes wet and windy fall weather would hinder play, adding that there are enough dry days at that time of year for the matches to take place.

There are no covered courts at Roland Garros but in case of bad weather the three-day event can be extended by two days.

Bimes said he has asked Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe to provide covers for practice courts. But French federation spokesman Christophe Proust said it was "too complicated" to cover the 15,000-seat Central Court because of its size.