France beats Belgium to win its 10th Davis Cup title
Lucas Pouille seals victory in lopsided reverse singles tennis match
Lucas Pouille ended a 16-year drought for France in the Davis Cup, winning the decisive match for the hosts to beat Belgium 3-2 in the final on Sunday.
Pouille's lopsided 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 win over Steve Darcis in the second reverse singles gave France its 10th Davis Cup title, after a run of three losses in the finals.
"There are no words needed," said Pouille, after playing for the first time in a decisive fifth Davis Cup rubber. "Just look at the atmosphere and the emotion. We really wanted this trophy and finally we got it after 16 years."
Pouille had lost his two previous Davis Cup matches — including his opening singles against David Goffin on Friday — but was in total control against Darcis and did not face a single break point.
"Too bad for those who had buried me on Friday," Pouille said. "I wanted to destroy everything on court."
France joined Britain in third place on the list for the most Davis Cup titles, behind the United States (32) and Australia (28).
France had won its last title in 2001, and lost in finals in 2002, 2010 and 2014.
Goffin kept hopes alive
Goffin had earlier kept alive his country's hopes of a first title in the team competition by levelling the tie at 2-2. Goffin beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-2 in the first reverse singles match in the French city of Lille.
Pouille, who was born close to Lille, used his powerful groundstrokes to unsettle Darcis, who had a perfect 5-0 record in decisive fifth-rubber Davis Cup matches.
But Darcis never got into the swing of the match and looked in trouble throughout.
Pouille made the most of his Belgian rival's many errors in the first set, converted his first break point in the second game and wrapped up the opener after dropping just eight points on his serve.
Despite being known for his fighting spirit, Darcis looked out of his depth and dropped his serve again in the third game of the second set, surrendering to his opponent's forehand onslaught. Another break of serve in the set gave Pouille a 4-1 lead and he never looked back, taking the second and third sets after winning 12 straight games.
Lap of honour
Pouille fell on his back and cried as his teammates rushed on court. The whole French squad, including captain Yannick Noah, then did a lap of honour at the Pierre Mauroy stadium.
Noah, the last Frenchman to win a Grand Slam singles tournament back in 1983 at the French Open, was appointed the country's captain two years ago. He captained the team to a third victory after winning the Davis Cup title in 1991 and 1996.
Goffin, the best player of the final, had pushed the tie into a fifth match with an impressive demolition of Tsonga.
"I missed several chances in the first set, I should have been more opportunistic," Tsonga said. "After, it was complicated, he played more relaxed and there was not much I could do."
Goffin has been in terrific form recently and was runner-up at the ATP Finals last week in London, where he defeated both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.