France celebrates Davis Cup glory

November 29, 2017

France has been celebrating after its team beat Belgium to win the Davis Cup in a dramatic final. 

The final tie in Lille went the full distance, with world number 18 Lucas Pouille winning the deciding match against Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-1, 6-0.

It was an emphatic victory at the end of a see-saw tie that had begun with David Giffin - who had just featured in the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals in London - beating Pouille in the opening singles rubber. Jo-Wilfried-Tsonga levelled for France by beating Darcis before France took the lead with victory in the doubles by Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert over Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore. 

This result came after the controversial decision by team captain Yannick Noah to drop Nicolas Mahut for the doubles, splitting up a partnership with Herbert that has been one of the best in the world in recent years. Indeed, the pair finished sixth in this year's rankings and played in the ATP Finals. Noah admitted afterwards that he was afraid of the public reaction if the move backfired, saying: "You can't help but be a little worried about what happens if they lose". 

Win they did, though, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (6-2), 6-4. This left Belgium needing to win both reverse singles and Goffin did his bit by beating Tsonga to set up the decider. That, however, was to be as good as it got for Belgium, who endured fresh disappointment after losing in the final to Great Britain two years ago. 

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the Championships, Wimbledon next summer may be interested to see how the players involved in the tie get on, although it is likely that they, unlike the fans in Lille, will see Mahut and Herbert back in action together.  

Tsonga is a long-time favourite with the centre court crowd for his all-action style and has got as far as the semi-finals, but is now in the autumn of his career. Pouille, however, is one of a group of rising stars who may take a step forward after enjoying his first taste of a major piece of tennis silverware. 

Steve Darcis had his moment in the south London sun when he stunned Rafael Nadal in the first round in 2013, but Goffin may be the one to watch. He has now won three out of four singles matches in Davis Cup finals, his sole defeat coming against a rampant Andy Murray two years ago in Ghent. Having produced such a performance this time after reaching the final at the O2 arena marks not just a good month, but the culmination of a fine year. While losing two massive finals in quick succession will sting, it might also be the launch pad for the 26-year-old to push on to greater heights. 

For France, it was a tenth Davis Cup and while it was their first victory since 2001, the triumph was enough to make them the all-time top ranked nation in the tournament, with Belgium now third. Some might observe that this is a reflection of their strength in depth rather than the presence of a world-beater in their ranks, but the win may just inspire French players to rise to greater heights in 2018.

Image: Getty, from Keith Prowse subscription

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