The French Fed Cup team will attempt to maintain its spot in the World Group this weekend against Spain, but perhaps the team drama has already peaked.
From refused nominations to taking team squabbles to social media, the build-up to this tie has had it all for the French team.
It all started at the end of last season, when the second-ranked Frenchwoman, world No. 25 Caroline Garcia, decided not to play in France’s 2017 Fed Cup campaign.
After France fell to Switzerland in the first round, Kristina Mladenovic, Garcia's doubles partner, did not have many positive things to say.
“L'aventure elle est plus belle avec les vraies personnes, celles qui ont des valeurs, celles qui sont prêtes à mourir sur le terrain et à ne pas être égoïste.”
Translated, Mladenovic said that the adventure is more beautiful with true, or real people, those with values and who are ready to die on the court and not be selfish. Any way you slice that, without even getting into who it was in reference to, it was not a good look.
In Dubai shortly thereafter, Mladenovic explained that she was not referencing Garcia, but Oceane Dodin.
“She had one tie with us and never gave her all, and, you know, build something in the team,” Mladenovic said of Dodin. “I was comparing [her] with Amandine [Hesse] who was literally like crying, being in the team.”
Let's not forget that Mladenovic and Garcia were a very successful doubles tandem, winning the French Open last season and reaching the final of the US Open.
But on March 5, Mladenovic announced that the duo were discontinuing their partnership.
That was already enough drama for a year of Fed Cup. Then on April 11, look who was selected to the team, despite already saying she was not going to play this season:
According to reporter Stephanie Myles, the players were all notified of that decision the day before. Coincidentally or not, Garcia then withdrew from a tournament she was slated to play in Stuttgart next week, right after the tie, due to an injury.
The following three tweets, sent out by the three other French players originally selected to face Spain, say little, but speak volumes.
LOL— Kristina Mladenovic (@KikiMladenovic) April 10, 2017
LOL— Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) April 10, 2017
LOL— pauline parmentier (@ppauline86) April 10, 2017
Garcia withdrew her name from the tie, and was replaced by Dodin. But not so fast:
Océane Dodin refuse la sélection remplacée par Amandine Hesse. Équipe en place à Roanne. #TEAMFRANCETENNIS— FFT (@FFTennis) April 17, 2017
So, at the end of it all, the same team that lost to Switzerland in the first round (Mladenovic, Parmentier, Cornet and Hesse) will suit up for captain Yannick Noah this weekend in World Play-off action.
Garcia reacted to the entire ordeal in L'Equipe:
"It's been a tougher period than people can imagine," Garcia said. "I was in Doha. I was following this from far away and some words can be hurtful. Kristina defended herself, I know, but these are words which need time to go over."
And Cornet also spoke about the situation with Le Parisien:
“Caro had announced that she did not want to play for a year,” Cornet said. “We did not agree, but we respected her decision. Kristina (Mladenovic), Pauline (Parmentier) and I try to stay together because we are the pillars of this team. As for relations with Caro, nothing much has happened. It's not like we were going to eat together every night before.”
Regardless of whether or not France ends up winning this weekend, it is safe to say that the dramatic build-up will resonate longer than the result.
Watch the Fed Cup Semifinals this weekend on Tennis Channel Plus.