Pouille Clinches France's 10th Davis Cup Trophy
FRANCE 3, BELGIUM 2
Lille, France (Indoor Hard)
If Lucas Pouille was nervous competing in a live Davis Cup fifth rubber for the first time, he certainly didn’t show it.
Pouille clinched France’s 10th Davis Cup title with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 victory over Belgium’s Steve Darcis in Lille, France, giving his country a 3-2 win in the tie.
"There are no words needed," Pouille said. "Just look at the atmosphere and the emotion... I'm just so proud of my team. We really wanted this trophy and finally we got it after 16 years. I'm very happy."
The Frenchman entered the match having lost his past two Davis Cup matches, including a one-hour, 59-minute defeat at the hands of David Goffin on Friday. His opponent, Darcis, had previously been 5-0 in live fifth rubbers, including clinching Belgium’s spot in the final this year as well as in 2015.
But the decisive rubber at Stade Pierre Mauroy was all Pouille from the beginning. The 23-year-old overwhelmed Darcis with power from the baseline that the veteran had no answer for.
Pouille won 79 per cent of his service points in the match, and never faced a break point. He broke Darcis seven times, closing out the triumph when a forehand from the Belgian sailed long.
"[I'm] just so emotional right now," Pouille said. "I'm very happy and to play in front of this crowd, my family and my friends, I'm feeling from another world."
The win capped another strong season for Pouille, who will finish inside the Top 20 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the second year in a row. He was also the only player on the ATP World Tour to win titles on all three surfaces this season. The World No. 18 entered the tie on the heels of capturing his third title of the season in Vienna, after winning on clay (Budapest) and grass (Stuttgart) earlier in 2017.
It was the second year in a row that the Davis Cup Final came down to a live fifth rubber, with Argentina defeating Croatia 3-2 last year.
Goffin evened the tie for Belgium at 2-2 earlier on Sunday, beating France’s top-ranked player, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-2.
"I played my best tennis on Sunday," Goffin said. "It's always special to play the Davis Cup on Sunday. It's the best day with the crowd and the atmosphere on the court so it was something unbelievable to play my best tennis."
The Belgian put his country within one match of winning its first Davis Cup title.
Tsonga dominated the first set, cruising on serve while earning opportunities in almost all of Goffin’s service games. The Frenchman held six break points across three different games in the opening set, but the Belgian found his best tennis while under pressure, especially on his two-handed backhand wing.
And once Goffin sneaked out the first set in a tie-break, all the momentum was on his side. Tsonga's first-serve percentage dropped from 75 to 53 in the second set, allowing the Belgian to return more aggressively. That gave Goffin his first break point opportunities in the match, one of which he converted to claim a two-set lead.
Tsonga loosened up late in the third set once he was down two breaks, but it was too late. Goffin saved two break points at 4-1 and that was the last hurdle he would face ahead of the finish line, closing out his second win of the weekend with a serve that the Frenchman could not handle.
The last time that France had won the Davis Cup, in 2001 (d. Australia), the tie was also decided in a fifth rubber. The French took a 2-1 lead into Sunday's play before Lleyton Hewitt forced a decisive fifth rubber, which Nicolas Escude won to claim his country's ninth trophy in the event.