France clinch Davis Cup victory

Lucas Pouille claimed the fifth and decisive rubber as France lifted their tenth Davis Cup title in front of home support in Lille.
Yannick Noah captained his side to victory against a talented Belgium team to win their first title since 2001. The first day’s play was even, with each country’s number one winning comfortably.

First on court was recent ATP World Tour Finals runner-up David Goffin taking on Pouille. Goffin had never beaten Pouille in all three of their previous matches, so a close game was expected.
Despite Goffin playing the full week in London, it was the Belgian who broke as Pouille was serving to stay in the set, winning it 7-5. The second and third sets were much more routine for Goffin as the French number two seemed tired, winning 6-3 6-1.
This put more pressure on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as he faced Belgium’s “Mr Davis Cup”, Steve Darcis. The Belgian had seen some excellent wins in this year’s competition, beating world number four, Alexander Zverev and Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi.
However, Tsonga had too much power for the 33-year-old winning comfortably 6-3 6-2 6-1.
With the scores level at 1-1 after day one, the doubles was crucial for both sides. France had made a late change to their nominations with Nicolas Mahut being replaced by Richard Gasquet to partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Belgian pair Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore got off to a poor start, losing the first set 6-1, but were able to level the match by taking the second 6-3. France won the third set on a tiebreak and sealed the win 6-2 in the fourth. The gamble paying off for Noah as Herbert and Gasquet had never played as a doubles pair before.    
The first match on day three saw the two number one’s face off.
The first set was very tight with the inevitable tie-break deciding it. Goffin took this, soaking up all the power Tsonga was throwing at him. His excellent defensive game continued as he got back all of Tsonga’s powerful forehands as well as showing a deft touch at the net.
Tsonga had no answer, with Goffin taking the tie into a deciding rubber, winning sets two and three 6-3 6-2. The 2017 Davis Cup Final would be decided between Pouille and Darcis. Pouille hadn’t won a live rubber since beating Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the quarter-final, so it was a surprise that Gasquet wasn’t chosen to replace him. However, he stepped up against an out of sorts Darcis, winning 6-3 6-1 6-0.
France will start the defence of their title in February against the Netherlands while Belgium will take on Hungary.
Sub-edited by Archie Griggs

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