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Mission man Tsonga levels for France in Davis Cup final against Belgium
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga admitted on Friday he was a man on a mission as he pulverised Steve Darcis 6-3 6-2 6-1 to give France parity with Belgium on the first day of the Davis Cup final.
Tsonga, the French number one, and ranked 15th in the world, barely broke sweat against his adversary who is 61 places beneath him in the men’s hierarchy.
The chasm in class and competence punctured the encounter. Tsonga was easy menace from the baseline. He fired off winners with laconic sweeps of his right arm while Darcis, a silhouette of sound technique, laboured to damage his opponent.
“Actually, we’re all on a mission,” said Tsonga after the 106 minute demolition. “The Belgians and the French are on a mission to take home the Davis Cup.”
The French are seeking their 10th title in the 117 year history of the men’s team competition and their first since 2001. The Belgians, beaten on home turf in 2015 by an Andy Murray inspired Great Britain, are looking for their first triumph.
“It was important to win the match against Darcis in any way possible,” 32-year-old Tsonga added. “The most important thing was to get back in the tie and be at 1-1 at the end of the first day.”
Tsonga was part of the France team that lost the Davis Cup final in Lille in 2014 against Switzerland. Back then the choice of a clay court at the Stade Pierre Mauroy was curious as the Swiss boasted Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka – men who had both triumphed on the clay courts at the French Open.
In 2017, a hard court has been laid down in Lille. If the move were intended to destabilise the Belgians, it backfired instantly. David Goffin, fresh from his exploits on an indoor hard court at the eight man end of season championships at the 02 Arena in London, oozed confidence as he dismantled Lucas Pouille 7-5 6-3 6-1 in two hours.
He had not beaten the Frenchman in their three previous meetings.
The 26-year-old Belgian has won only two of the six encounters with Tsonga. Their last clash came on an indoor hard court in the final at Rotterdam in September. Tsonga recovered from the loss of the opening set to win it. But the autumnal Goffin is a different beast from the winter warrior who dispatched Federer and Rafael Nadal during the week long end of season championships in London.
“David is playing the best tennis of his life at the moment,” said a chastened Pouille after his battering.
But Tsonga, who is scheduled to face Goffin on Sunday, said he remained undeterred by the Belgian's surge to number seven in the world. “When I came to final I came prepared for everything. We’re all here to put together a string of good performances.”
Tsonga added: “In my first match I needed to win a point for my team and that’s what I did.”