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Goffin leads Belgians into Davis Cup final against France

media David Goffin beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on his way to the ATP Finals in London. Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Three years ago in late November, the Swiss knifed France in the Davis Cup final at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille. Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer had too much guile on the clay court for the likes of Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

It was Switzerland’s first victory in the competition’s then 114 year history. It was another setback for the French after losses in the final in 2010 and 2002.

A few winters on from that defeat to the Swiss and the northern city is the venue anew for the final. This time, a hard court has been chosen for the combat with the Belgians who are looking for their first triumph in the men’s team competition.

David Goffin will lead the country’s second attempt to claim a final. In 2015, after winning his opening tie against Kyle Edmund, Goffin lost the fourth match against Andy Murray to give Great Britain a 3-1 lead in the best of five series.

In that final in Ghent, Murray was the highest ranked player. Over the next three days in Lille, Goffin is the top hombré.

He is number seven in the world following his run to the final of the ATP Finals in London. During his week at the 02 Arena, 26-year-old Goffin beat world number one Rafael Nadal in the round robin stages and then came from a set down to dispatch Federer, the world number two, in the semi-final.

As well as overcoming Federer for the first time in seven meetings, he also became only the sixth man to vanquish Nadal and Federer in the same tournament.

Kudos for the lad from Liège. But will he be able to lord it over the French after all the exertions in London?

“To be playing in the ATP finals and then in the Davis Cup final is a dream come true,” said Goffin in London. “But I will also give my best in the final.”

And that could be too much for the French who will enjoy fervent support from the bulk of the 27,000 spectators expected to pack into the Stade Pierre Mauroy. They will also have to cope with the pressure of being the overwhelming favourites for another final on home soil

As is usual in the matches on the first day, one country’s number one takes on the other’s number two. Goffin, the top Belgian, will face world number 18 Lucas Pouille. They have met three times before on the ATP circuit with the Frenchman winning all three.

“I am glad to be playing first,” said Pouille. “Otherwise there is more time for the pressure to mount. I’ve done well against David in the past. But at the moment he is a completely different player.”

Tsonga, ranked 15th, has been as high as number six in the world. He plays world number 76 Steve Darcis in the second match on Friday. Tsonga, 32, has not been outside the top 20 since 2008.

But he is one of a golden generation of French players that has failed to crystallise their collective capacity in the Davis Cup since their last victory in 2001 over Australia.

"It’s obviously our dream to win," said France team captain Yannick Noah who steered the side to triumphs in 1991 and 1996. “We have been dreaming about it for so many years.”






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