British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith insisted that “anything is possible” as his team prepared for Friday’s quarter-final in Rouen.
Andy Murray might be absent because of an elbow injury, which has only allowed him to return to gentle practice sessions in London over the last couple of days.
But the French are also under strength. This is likely to be just the second time that they have fielded a team without any of the so-called “Four Musketeers” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon – since 2005.
“It is very unfortunate for the French team,” said Smith, when asked about the absentees. “But at the same time they are pretty greedy about getting guys in the top 100 so they can keep calling on others. It is still a very, very strong team. We are obviously minus Andy, but certainly it weakens the French team not having those players, there is no doubt about that.”
It is not entirely clear why Simon is not being selected. The French captain, Yannick Noah, seems to have switched him out of the four-man team on form grounds, preferring the heavy forehand of Jeremy Chardy to Simon's endurance and court coverage. Chardy might be ranked much lower, at No 68 in the world to Simon's No 30, but he claimed a big scalp in Miami a fortnight ago by beating Marin Cilic.
“We are obviously going to have to perform very well over the weekend,” added Smith. “We are playing away from home on their chosen surface, in front of their home fans.
“France have got amazing strength and depth but anything is possibly really. It's not like we're having to make up huge ranking deficits. They're missing a few players, we're missing our No 1 player as well. I think it is going to be very competitive but obviously we're going to have to perform very well to get through.”