Davis Cup fi­nal: Tsonga leads France, Gof­fin leads Bel­gium

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Julien Benneteau’s deep run at the Paris Masters this month earned him a re­call by France for the Davis Cup fi­nal against Bel­gium.

Benneteau was sum­moned be­side Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga, Lu­cas Pouille, Ni­co­las Mahut, Pier­re­Hugues Her­bert and Richard Gas­quet by cap­tain Yan­nick Noah on Tues­day. All have played at some point for France this year.

“This is a com­pact team,” Noah said. “The six I’ve picked are ca­pa­ble of play­ing.”

At the Paris Masters, Benneteau beat Tsonga and Bel­gium’s top player, David Gof­fin and Marin Cilic. The 57th-ranked Benneteau is also a good dou­bles spe­cial­ist. He has played in 13 ties since 2010. His first in two years was the quar­ter­fi­nal win over Bri­tain, against which he won the dou­bles and lost a sin­gles dead rub­ber.

“He has earned his spot,” Noah said. “He has sur­prised all of us, in­clud­ing him­self.”

The 15th-ranked Tsonga and No. 18 Pouille are ex­pected to lead the team in sin­gles play, with Benneteau and Gas­quet listed as sub­sti­tutes. Pier­re­Hugues Her­bert and Ni­co­las Mahut, who are play­ing in dou­bles at the ATP Fi­nals in London this week, have been se­lected as a team.

“I won’t have them dur­ing the whole prepa­ra­tion, but our op­po­nents have the same prob­lem with one of their play­ers,” Noah said, re­fer­ring to Gof­fin, who is in London in the sin­gles draw.

Bel­gium fea­tures eighth-ranked Gof­fin, Steve Dar­cis, Ruben Bemel­mans, and Arthur De Greef, the same group which de­feated Aus­tralia in the semi­fi­nals. The Bel­gian fed­er­a­tion said Joris De Loore will also travel to France de­spite a long in­jury lay­off that ruled him out of the semi­fi­nals.

“Our ri­vals will largely count on one player (Gof­fin),” Noah said. “I be­lieve that we are ca­pa­ble of beat­ing their No. 1. If we man­age to play our best ten­nis next week, we are fa­vorites.”

Nine-time cham­pion France is go­ing back to Stade Pierre-Mau­roy in the north­ern city of Lille for the fi­nal from Nov. 24-26. In Septem­ber, the Stade Pierre-Mau­roy set a Davis Cup semi­fi­nal at­ten­dance record for a day and a tie, with al­most 48,000 spec­ta­tors over the three days.

France lost its three pre­vi­ous fi­nals, in 2002, 2010 and 2014. It seeks its first Davis Cup ti­tle since 2001.

Bel­gium, in the fi­nal for the sec­ond time in three years, is look­ing for its first. It has not won in France since 1952.

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