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Sports

France skipper Noah urges fans to pump up the volume on last day of Davis Cup final against Belgium

media France captain Yannick Noah heaped praise on the partisan supporters in Lille during the second day of the Davis Cup fnal against Belgium. Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

France captain Yannick Noah on Sunday called on the French fans to make their voices heard as the nation’s tennis players attempt to lift the Davis Cup for the first time in 16 years.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga, the French number one, will play his Belgian counterpart David Goffin in the first singles match at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille.

Tsonga, 32, and ranked 15th in the world, has beaten Goffin on four of their six meetings. But his 26-year-old opponent enters the game for the fourth point on the back of wins over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – the top two players in the world – at the end of season championships in London. As a result of his exploits in London, he rose to number seven in the world.

Speaking after France won the doubles match on Saturday to take a 2-1 lead In the best of five series, Noah said: “The French supporters seemed a bit flat on the first day of the competition. But during the doubles they were louder.

"I think lots of people realised that the doubles match and the point it brings was really important. The fans were extraordinary. It was a fantastic ambiance.”

In the match, debutant French pair Richard Gasquet and¨Pierre-Hugues Herbert cruised through the opening set against Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore 6-1. But the Belgian duo hit back to take the second set 6-3. They served for the third set at 5-4 up but squandered their chance. The French won the third set tiebreak and claimed the fourth 6-4.

“The fans count,” added Noah. “We saw in the doubles how fine the margins can be. There remains one more point to get on Sunday.”

Noah oversaw France’s Davis Cup final victory against the United States in 1991 in Lyon and he was also at the helm when they won in Sweden in 1996.

And he urged the partisans to continue to be vocal during Sunday’s games. "It's going to be a massive match between Tsonga and Goffin," said Noah.

"With France leading 2-1, the two countries' number one players, I've thought about this for a long time.

"The fans will be important. I can’t remember them motivating the players like this for a long time. It is approaching the atmosphere we had in Lyon all those years ago and that was a unique feeling.”

In 1991, the team collected its first Davis Cup since 1932 and it’s seventh overall. There have not been any triumphs since 2001 despite appearances in the final in 2002, 2010 and 2014.

If Goffin, who is ranked seventh in the world, beats Tsonga, the deciding match will pit either Lucas Pouille or Gasquet against Steve Darcis.

Belgium's captain Johan Van Herck said his players had not relinquished their hopes of lifting the title for the first time. "We've shown that we know how to fight as a team. We have David and Steve. They are two great cards to play on Sunday.”

 

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