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David Goffin was never in trouble as he gave visitors Belgium a 1-0 lead in the Davis Cup final against France by crushing Lucas Pouille 7-5 6-3 6-1 in the opening singles match on Friday.
The world number seven, high on self-confidence since he finished runner-up at the ATP Finals last weekend, played the key points better at the end of the first set and never looked back, not facing a single break point on the indoor hardcourt.
French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next takes on Steve Darcis in the other first day singles ahead of a potentially decisive doubles on Saturday featuring France’s Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert against Ruben Bemelmans and Joris De Loore.
Nine-time champions France have not won the Davis Cup since 2001, losing three finals since then, while Belgium, runners-up in 2015, have never claimed the title.
Emotions ran high early on as doubles specialist Julien Benneteau, who was surprisingly dropped from France’s starting line-up on Thursday, burst into tears when the players were introduced to the 28,500 crowd at the Pierre Mauroy stadium.
Although they were largely outnumbered in the stands, the Belgium fans were the most vocal.
Pouille had won his previous three encounters with Goffin, all played last year, but the Belgian was the more confident and composed player.
The Frenchman whipped several forehand winners but was kept in check by Goffin as both players held comfortably.
Pouille was two points from the set at 5-4, 30-30, but his opponent served two consecutive aces.
Goffin had the first break point in the following game, converting it when Pouille’s sliced backhand went into the net. The Belgian then won his service game to love, clinching the set with a service winner.
Goffin took an early break in the second when the Frenchman double faulted and he bagged the second set as Pouille made yet another unforced error.
Another early break put Goffin in the driving seat in the third set and the Belgian raced to victory on his first match point.
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