France end Davis Cup drought with victory over Belgium

Published by AP

The French Davis Cup team celebrates its triumph in Lille over Belgium; Getty Images
Lucas Pouille was brilliant in the live fifth rubber, thrashing Steve Darcis to deliver France its 10th Davis Cup trophy – and first since 2001.

Lucas Pouille has ended a 16-year drought for France in the Davis Cup, winning the decisive match for the hosts to beat Belgium 3-2 in the final.

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

“There are no words needed,” Pouille said, after playing for the first time in a decisive fifth Davis Cup rubber.

“Just look at the atmosphere and the emotion. We really wanted this trophy and finally we got it after 16 years.”

DAY 2: France hold advantage in Davis Cup final

Pouille had lost his two previous Davis Cup matches – including his opening singles against David Goffin on Friday – but was in total control against Darcis and did not face a single break point.

“Too bad for those who had buried me on Friday,” Pouille said. “I wanted to destroy everything on court.”

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 their last title in 2001, and lost in finals in 2002, 2010 and 2014.

DAY 1: France and Belgium locked at 1-1

Goffin had earlier kept alive his country’s hopes by levelling the tie with a 7-6(5) 6-3 6-2 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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

But the Belgian never got into the swing of the match and looked in trouble throughout – dropping the last 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 honour 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 had pushed the tie into a live fifth match with an impressive demolition of Tsonga.

The seventh-ranked Goffin, the best player of the final, delivered a superb performance to defeat France’s top player earlier on Sunday.

He 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 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.

But he could not prevent Belgium from a third loss in a Davis Cup, after being runner-ups to Britain in the 1904 and 2015 finals.

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