France Earns 2-1 Lead In Davis Cup Final
FRANCE 2, BELGIUM 1
Lille, France (Indoor Hard)
For a while, it appeared that Belgium was ready to shock the fans inside Stade Pierre Mauroy, as Joris De Loore and Ruben Bemelmans served for a two sets to one lead in Saturday's doubles rubber in Lille, France. But Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert battled the whole way in front of their home crowd to defeat the Belgians 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 and move France within one match of capturing its 10th Davis Cup title.
Belgium, which is in its second Davis Cup Final in three years and third overall, now must win both reverse singles rubbers to triumph in the tie and claim their first victory at the event.
Yannick Noah's charges sprinted to a 5-0 lead in the first set, even though Herbert — a Nitto ATP Finals qualifier with Nicolas Mahut — was playing with a new partner in Gasquet. But the Belgians did not go quietly, earning the second set and later serving for the third. But once the French broke back for 5-5, momentum was on their side, and they would win the first six points of the ensuing tie-break to help gain a lead of their own.
And when a De Loore forehand sailed long on match point, French fans erupted knowing their nation had earned a 2-1 lead in the tie.
The doubles rubber proved key the last time France was in the Davis Cup Final, in 2014. After entering Saturday knotted at 1-1 three years ago, a straight-sets loss gave Switzerland a 2-1 lead, which Roger Federer would use to clinch the title in Sunday's first match against Gasquet.
This time around, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will have an opportunity to clinch the title for France when he plays David Goffin in the tie's fourth rubber on Sunday. The top-ranked player from each nation will clash for the seventh time, with Tsonga leading their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-2. Three of their matches on the ATP World Tour have gone three sets, and the pair has split their two meetings on indoor hard courts. In their only match this season, Tsonga defeated Goffin in the Rotterdam final to claim the trophy at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
If Goffin manages to extend the final to a live fifth rubber, his compatriot Steve Darcis is scheduled to play Lucas Pouille.