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Tsonga downs Darcis to level for France

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France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga returns the ball to Belgium’s Steve Darcis during their singles rubber of the Davis Cup World Group final tennis match between France and Belgium at The Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille on November 24, 2017.<br />PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled France level at 1-1 in the Davis Cup final with a three-set win over Belgium’s Steve Darcis in Lille on Friday.

David Goffin had mercilessly swept aside close friend Lucas Pouille to give Belgium the first point at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

But world number 15 Tsonga steadied home nerves in the opening day’s second rubber with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 success over 76th-ranked Darcis to boost France’s hopes of claiming the trophy for the first time since 2001.

France’s top player took 1 hour 46 minutes to despatch the Belgian number two in the pair’s first ever encounter.

That left the 2017 final finely poised ahead of Saturday’s doubles, with untested French duo Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert up against Ruben Bemelmans and Joris de Loore.

Goffin, the world number seven, won 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in front of a crowd of close to 26,000 fans, many making the short trip from across the border with Belgium.

Goffin, who last week lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the title decider at the ATP Finals in London, needed just under two hours to give the Belgians the upper hand as they look to win the Davis Cup for the first time.

This was the 26-year-old’s first win over 18th-ranked Pouille in their fourth meeting.

Goffin got the better of his French foe’s strong baseline play, making the telling break in the 11th game to serve out to love to take the opening set.

He broke Pouille’s serve at the start of the second, going on to break again to take the set 6-3, and race to a 3-0 lead in the third.

A deft backhand winner lifted the Belgian to 5-1 and he sealed the first point of the 2017 final with a crosscourt forehand winner.

“I’ve pushed the salad bowl a little towards the border, only a little because it’s heavy,” said Goffin, referring to the trophy.

“I’m thrilled to have set the team off like that.


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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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