(Reuters) – Thirty amateur tennis players were invited to play through the night on Wednesday to test the Davis Cup final claycourt constructed inside Lille’s huge Stade Pierre Mauroy.
Last weekend’s rugby international between France and Argentina in the same venue meant organisers faced a quick turnaround to lay down the clay surface in time for this weekend’s historic final against Croatia.
The French and Croatian teams have practised on another site while the court was constructed, but they will get their feet on the match surface on Thursday after its overnight test carried out by players from a local club.
“At first, I will not lie, I thought it was a joke,” Alexander Landtsheere was quoted in French daily L’Equipe after taking to the court at 2330 local time (2230 GMT) on Wednesday.
Players took turns to hit on the court until 0400 in a bid to bed down the surface for the tie which starts on Friday.
“It was impossible to refuse,” said Louis Delcour. “We train in small clubs. For us, being there is an honour, we are unlikely to have this chance again.
“If we had to play eight hours in a row we were ready to do it I think.”
France are the reigning champions while Croatia are bidding to win the Davis Cup for only the second time having won the title in 2005.
This year’s will be the last final before the Davis Cup is revamped. Next year it will feature a ‘finals week’ with 18 nations assembling in Madrid to fight for the title.
Lille’s 28,000 Stade Pierre Mauroy also hosted last year’s final between France and Belgium but a hardcourt was constructed rather than clay which has been chosen this time.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)