France beats Belgium for first Davis Cup in in 16 years

Tennis


LILLE, France — France won the Davis Cup for the first time in 16 years after beating Belgium 3-2 on Sunday.

Lucas Pouille‘s lopsided 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 win over Steve Darcis in the second reverse singles gave France its 10th Davis Cup title, ending a run of three losses in finals.

France joined Britain in third place on the list for the most Davis Cup titles, behind the United States (32) and Australia (28).

France had won its last title in 2001, and lost in finals in 2002, 2010 and 2014.

Belgium’s top player, David Goffin, earlier kept alive his country’s hopes of a first title in the team competition by leveling the tie at 2-2. Goffin beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-2 in the first reverse singles match in the French city of Lille.

Pouille, who was born close to Lille, used his powerful groundstrokes to unsettle Darcis, who had a perfect 5-0 record in decisive fifth-rubber Davis Cup matches.

But Darcis never got into the swing of the match and looked in trouble throughout.

Pouille made the most of his Belgian rival’s many errors in the first set, converted his first break point in the second game and wrapped up the opener after dropping just eight points on his serve.

Known for his fighting spirit, Darcis looked out of his depth and dropped his serve again in the third game of the second set, surrendering to his opponent’s forehand onslaught. Another break of serve in the set gave Pouille a 4-1 lead and he never looked back, taking the second and third sets after winning 12 straight games.

Pouille fell on his back and cried as his teammates rushed on court. The whole French squad, including captain Yannick Noah, then did a lap of honor at the Pierre Mauroy stadium.

Noah, the last Frenchman to win a Grand Slam singles tournament back in 1983 at the French Open, was appointed the country’s captain two years ago. He captained the team to a third victory after winning the Davis Cup title in 1991 and 1996.

Goffin, the best player of the final, had earlier pushed the tie into a fifth match with an impressive demolition of Tsonga.

The seventh-ranked Goffin, who also won his opening singles without dropping a set, delivered a superb performance to defeat France’s top player.

Tsonga served extremely well in the first set and had six chances to break Goffin, but his Belgian rival weathered some blistering groundstrokes and showed nerves of steel on important points.

Goffin saved a set point with a forehand winner at 6-5 and sealed the tiebreaker on his first chance, with a backhand winner down the line.

“I missed several chances in the first set, I should have been more opportunistic,” Tsonga said. “After, it was complicated, he played more relaxed and there was not much I could do.”

Goffin broke for a 4-2 lead in the second set after Tsonga double faulted, and broke twice in the third set after pressuring the Frenchman into many mistakes.

Goffin has been in terrific form recently and was runner-up at the ATP Finals last week in London, where he defeated both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Despite fatigue and an ailing knee, Goffin carried his London form into the northern French city of Lille, where he swept past Pouille on Friday before Tsonga leveled at 1-1 with a straight-set win over Darcis. The French won Saturday’s doubles.



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