BAIE-MAHAULT, Guadeloupe – The upside for the underdog team when it faces two top singles players joining forces in Davis Cup doubles is that there's no guarantee they'll be as good in tandem. Certainly, they won't be very experienced.
The downside of that type of all-star team is that when it comes to crunch time, key points, set points against, they have the tools to come up with something special.
In a nutshell, that's how Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, ranked No. 9 and No. 10 in the current ATP Tour rankings, escaped four set points in the first set. In the third set, the Canadians were one rather routine Philip Bester volley away from earning two more set points. That's how close it was to becoming a dogfight.
In the end, it was 7-6 (4), 6-1, 7-6 (4) and when it was over, the French rejoiced.
The great Guadeloupean adventure turned out about as well as they could have hoped. They clinched their World Group first-round tie after the first three matches, and can now look ahead to the quarter-finals, where they will face the winner between the Czech Republic and Germany.
And, possibly, enjoy some of the local hospitality Saturday night.
There will be more tennis Sunday for the sellout crowd at the Vélodrome Amédée-Dédreault. But a drained Pospisil, who was a game-day decision for doubles after his physical struggles in singles Friday, won't be taking the court.
Instead, Bester will play the first match at 11 a.m., shortened to best-of-three sets from best-of-five because the outcome of the tie is no longer in doubt.
Here's what Pospisil and captain Martin Laurendeau had to say afterward. Pospisil, who did struggle in this one – but not nearly as much as he did in singles when, concerned about the dehydration that so often affects him, he hydrated too much and ended up getting abdominal cramps.
Pospisil and Laurendeau both agreed that Gasquet was the player who carried the team, level-wise. But Tsonga had his moments; when the Canadians had four set points on his serve in the first set, he busted out one bomb that registered at 236 km/hour.
Gasquet's wizardry at times is really something to behold. He almost never serves and volleys in singles, and he doesn't even play that much doubles. But on this day, he was playing it right out of the textbook. As random as he and Tsonga are as a pairing, they definitely do have a certain chemistry. Both won doubles medals at the 2012 Olympics on London, on grass – though not together.
Pospisil plays the deuce side with regular doubles partner Jack Sock. He played the ad side with Bester, and it clearly took him a set or two to recalibrate the angles with his forehand. He missed some makeable ones, but eventually did get in the groove.
For Bester, 27, who has been playing almost singularly on the Challenger circuit, facing two top-10 players could have been a daunting task. But overall, he handled it with aplomb. It will serve him well for Sunday's reverse singles, a match that doesn't count in the standings but will still be useful experience for him.