There are border wars, but the France-Switzerland Davis Cup final that begins on Friday will travel all the way across those two countries' border and back. The French team is filled with players who make their residences, for tax purposes, on Swiss soil. The top player from Switzerland, Roger Federer, is something akin to a deity in Paris. The Swiss players speak French, and most of the guys on both teams have been speaking it to each other, and playing each other, since before they were teenagers. They all seem, legitimately, to get along.
That mixed-up quality mirrors the tie itself: It’s hard to remember a less predictable Davis Cup final. Each of the four starting singles players—Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils—has beaten both of his prospective opponents at least twice. The surface, clay, should only equalize things more; Federer is still the best of this bunch on dirt, but he doesn’t tower over Tsonga or Monfils on it the way he has on other surfaces. Plus, he’ll go into his first rubber tomorrow having had just two practice sessions since hurting his back and pulling out of the London final on Sunday.
There will be another border war in the stands inside the 27,000-seat stadium in Lille. The majority of noise will come from the French, of course (and not in favor of Federer this time), but a Swiss contingent will make themselves heard. One of their compatriots who won’t be making noise, apparently, is Mirka Federer, who isn't scheduled to be at the tie. Maybe that’s good news for Wawrinka.
We’ve been due for this final, and so have these teams. The Swiss, whose singles players have 18 Grand Slam titles between them, are looking to win their country's first Davis Cup. The French, one of the original quartet of Cup-winning nations, is looking for its first since 2001, and first with this group of musketeers. Federer himself is looking for a late-career capstone; aside from Jimmy Connors, every other man with eight majors or more has his name on the Cup. And while he has had an excellent season, Federer has come up short in the biggest events in 2014; he could wipe that away with a win here.
It’s hard to think of a better way to end the tennis year.