France and Belgium are level at 1-1 after each winning a singles match on the first day of the 2017 Davis Cup final at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France, on Friday.
David Goffin thrashed Lucas Pouille in three sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 to win the first rubber, before Jo-Wilfried Tsonga drew France level by beating Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.
Goffin raced into a two-set lead against a bewildered Pouille. Fine work at the net allowed Goffin to take control early, with this brief rally relayed on the tournament's official Twitter account:
Davis Cup @DavisCup
Cool as a 🥒 @David__Goffin taking it all in his stride at the #DavisCupFinal https://t.co/8lKEgwZ7uA2017-11-24 14:53:34
Belgium's dominance continued in the third set when Goffin won the first three games. There was the briefest of revivals from Pouille, who finally put a game on the board before Goffin stretched his lead to 4-1.
Catherine Whitaker of Eurosport UK commented on the absence of a rapport between Pouille and his coach, Yannick Noah:
Catherine Whitaker @CWhitakerSport
There's a definite lack of vibe between Noah and Pouille in this match. Minimal interaction so far.. #DavisCupFinal2017-11-24 14:11:44
Goffin used backhand returns to defy the Pouille serve in the next game, before a deft lob at the net put him closer to a break point. He soon earned the break and a chance to serve for the match.
Three aces put Goffin closer still to victory in the decisive game, before a fantastic forehand across court sealed it in style.
The second rubber was initially a closer affair. Tsonga and Darcis split the first four games after both staying strong on serve.
It was Tsonga who began to take control, though, with Live Tennis identifying the particular shot the Frenchman was leaning on:
Live Tennis @livetennis
The #Tsonga forehand is doing some serious damage in Lille- a couple of howitzers help the Frenchman to a comfortable hold for 4-3. #Tsonga is definitely on top, but we are remain on serve... https://t.co/LeTyGes1902017-11-24 16:21:29
Tsonga's forehand soon helped him earn a decisive break point. He was now left to serve for the set and duly completed a 6-3 win, but only after challenging a supposed forehand winner from Darcis.
A terrific backhand at the net gave Tsonga an early break and put him in command of the second set:
Tsonga continued putting on a show as he moved within a whisker of two-set lead. However, Darcis began fighting back and took the next game.
It proved only a temporary reprieve as Tsonga served for a second set in a row. Tsonga claimed the set after repeating Darcis' clip of the net one shot earlier:
Davis Cup @DavisCup
Anything you can do... @tsonga7 🇫🇷 clinches the second set against Steve Darcis 🇧🇪 after both players clip the net cord https://t.co/1rbpWOaVDa2017-11-24 17:06:31
Things went smoothly in the final set, even though Darcis took the first game. The problem for Belgium was Tsonga won the next six without reply to help France draw level ahead of Saturday's encounter.
Singles play will resume on Sunday, with today's fixtures reversed, making Goffin and Tsonga a definite highlight.