France into Davis Cup final, Australia and Belgium tied 2-2
LILLE, France (AP) Back with the France Davis Cup team, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga clinched a semifinal victory against Serbia by defeating Dusan Lajovic 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-2 on Sunday.
France reached an unassailable 3-1 lead and will face either Belgium or 28-time champion Australia in the final. The teams were level at 2-2 in Brussels after David Goffin rallied past Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Goffin, who had not beaten Kyrgios in three previous matches, returned well and played astute tennis to counter his opponent’s big shots on the indoor clay of the Palais 12, extending his excellent Davis Cup record to 15 wins from 16 singles matches.
Goffin dropped his serve only once and fell onto his back after hitting two aces in succession to serve out the match after a three-hour battle.
”Everything is in the timing, I think,” Goffin said about his returns, adding ”I see the ball earlier than the others so maybe that’s why I have a good return.”
Belgium’s Steve Darcis was set to take on John Millman in the decisive rubber but Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt changed his lineup to send Jordan Thompson instead.
France avenged its loss to Serbia in the 2010 final and qualified for its first final since losing to Switzerland in the title match three years ago. The French will play at home from Nov. 24-26 if Belgium wins, or travel to Australia.
France won the last of its nine titles in 2001 against the Australians.
”I’m relieved and happy,” said France captain Yannick Noah. ”To win the Davis Cup is something extraordinary. Hopefully I will be able to win it with theses lads.”
Noah already captained France to the 1991 and 1996 Davis Cup titles. As a player, he also won the French Open in 1983.
The French did a lap of honor after Tsonga won the decisive point against a depleted Serbian team that gave the hosts a tough challenge.
Tsonga won his second point for France after defeating 22-year-old debutant Laslo Djere in straight sets on Friday to level the tie at 1-1. Two-time Grand Slam champions Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert then gave the hosts a 2-1 lead when they beat Filip Krajinovic and Nenad Zimonjic in the doubles match.
Tsonga, who had decided to skip the Davis Cup this year, changed his mind and made a successful return to the French team.
He was overpowered by his rival in the first set but improved and recovered in the second by upping his game when it mattered, after a double fault from Lajovic gave him an early break.
The third set was close with neither player giving in on the red clay of the Pierre Mauroy stadium. Lajovic was the first to crack despite saving two set points in the tiebreaker when he dumped a backhand return into the net.
Tsonga missed three break chances in the opening game of the fourth set but converted the fourth after Lajovic made two consecutive unforced errors – a double fault and a forehand in the net. The Frenchman then held to love and broke again as Lajovic showed signs of fatigue following his five-set win over Lucas Pouille on Friday. Tsonga then served out the match.