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Davis Cup Tennis Update • Tsonga, Gasquet, And Herbert Put France One Win Away Over Belguim

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in action against Steve Darcis of Belgium during their singles match of the Tennis Davis Cup Final between France and Belgium at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, near Lille, France, 24 November 2017. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT



By Ricky Dimon


France is one victory away from its first Davis Cup title in 16 years, and 10th overall. The home team trailed Belgium 1-0 in this week’s final in Lille at one point, but a win by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second singles rubber followed by Saturday’s double success has the Frenchmen in control.


After an in-form David Goffin put Belgium on the scoreboard by erasing Lucas Pouille, Tsonga evened things up with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 blowout of Steve Darcis. That set the stage for a crucial doubles battle, for which there was some controversy on the French side going into it.


Captain Yannick Noah broke up the tried and true pairing of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, instead leaving Mahut completely off the roster so that a third singles player–Richard Gasquet–could join Tsonga and Pouille. Gasquet, a potential replacement for Pouille in Sunday’s possibly decisive fifth rubber (due to Pouille’s underwhelming display against Goffin), paired with Herbert on Saturday to face the Belgian duo of Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore.


Noah’s decision cannot necessarily be deemed an impeccable one because Mahut and Herbert would have been overwhelming favorites anyway, but it won’t go down in Davis Cup infamy. Gasquet and Herbert made sure of that by getting the job done and holding off Bemelmans and De Loore 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 in three hours and three minutes.


“You’re always worried because even though I think it’s the right choice, even if I’ve been playing for so many years and being captain for so many years, there are so many people here that are just waiting to cut my head, whatever I’m doing,” Noah commented. “You can’t help but be a little bit worried about what happens if they lose. They saved me.”


“We didn’t know what to expect, but we stayed together from the beginning to the end,” Herbert noted. “We got the win and we’re so happy.”


On the other hand, the Belgians have their backs against the wall. On the bright side, the visitors do have the benefit of a confident Goffin playing the fourth rubber on Sunday. Registering at seventh in the rankings, Goffin is coming off a runner-up performance at the Nitto ATP Finals–where he upset both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the process. As for Tsonga, he contended for a London spot by capturing the Antwerp title and finishing runner-up in Vienna before falling short with an early exit at the Paris Masters.


“It will be tough,” Johan Van Herck, Belgium’s captain, admitted. “But we have two players who know how to play on a Sunday. We have the experience and I think David has the game to beat Jo. It will be a very high level match. One that is worthy of a Davis Cup Final.”


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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