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Tsonga level for France in Davis Cup semifinals

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LILLE, France (AP) France and Serbia are leveled at 1-1 in their Davis Cup semifinal after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga dispatched 22-year-old debutant Laslo Djere in straight sets on Friday following Lucas Pouille’s shock defeat in the opening singles match.

In the absence of Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic, the French were expected to enjoy a calm weekend in the northern city of Lille. But Dusan Lajovic made the most of Pouille’s inconsistent display to give Serbia a 1-0 lead on the red clay of the Pierre Mauroy Stadium.

The 80th-ranked Lajovic made a strong start and capitalized on Pouille’s mistakes to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5). The Frenchman never found the right tempo, made wrong tactical choices, and hit a total of 70 unforced errors.

Playing with the French Davis Cup team for the first time this season, Tsonga made a successful return in the team competition and won 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-3.

In the other semifinal in Brussels, David Goffin produced a hard-fought win against Australian John Millman to earn the hosts an early lead. Goffin won a tight baseline battle that lasted 3 and 1/2 hours against Millman, triumphing 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (4) to extend his Davis Cup record to 14 wins from 15 matches.

Australia, a 28-time champion, is chasing a spot in the final for the first time since it won the title in 2003, while Belgium is trying to reach the final for only the third time.

“Physically I’m not at my best, but I knew for the team and the fans that I had to leave my heart out on the court,” said Goffin, who has been hampered by a knee injury recently. “To give one point to your country is the best feeling you can have.”

Both semifinals are played on clay.

In Lille, the 22nd-ranked Pouille dropped his serve immediately and looked nervous throughout the first set wrapped up by Lajovic in 25 minutes.

The Serbian took all the risks and reduced Pouille to a spectator’s role with deep groundstrokes and kicked serves that caught his opponent out.

“The biggest advantage for me was to win the first set,” Lajovic said. “It’s always important in Davis Cup.”

Lajovic had cramps in his right foot towards the end of the fourth set and needed some help from Serbia player and captain Nenad Zimonjic to put his shoe back on after hitting an overhead winner for a 5-4 lead in the fourth-set tiebreaker.

“It would have been extremely difficult to play five sets,” Lajovic said.

Pouille was impatient too often, trying to shorten the points instead of making his opponent run. The Frenchman upped his game to level at one set apiece and hit some beautiful points, including an overhead after chasing a drop shot that prompted loud cheers in the stands.

But the relief did not last. The Frenchman’s inconsistent serve came back to haunt him in the last two sets and Lajovic sealed the match at the net with a backhand volley, raising both arms in triumph.

Belgium’s Arthur de Greef and Ruben Bemelmans are expected to team up against Australians John Peers and Jordan Thompson in Saturday’s doubles, with French pair Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut facing Filip Krajinovic and Zimonjic in Lille.

Dimitrov defeats Goffin to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Grigor Dimitrov claimed the biggest title of his career at the season-ending ATP Finals on Sunday, prevailing on his fifth match point to beat David Goffin of Belgium 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

“It’s such an honor to play here,” Dimitrov said. “This week has been one of the best I’ve ever had.”

The sixth-seeded Bulgarian won in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 15 seconds for the longest final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008.

Dimitrov won all five of his matches at the O2 Arena to become the first player to win the elite tournament on debut since 1998, when Alex Corretja of Spain triumphed in Hanover.

Goffin saved three match points on his own serve, but Dimitrov kept his cool, taking the second opportunity on his own delivery to close it out.

By reaching the final, Dimitrov had already secured a career-high No. 3-ranking to end the year. Goffin also moves up to a career-best No. 7.

The final lasted more than 11 minutes longer than Roger Federer took to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011. It was a nervous start as both players failed to hold serve in the opening three games before Goffin settled down to control the opener as Dimitrov struggled with his timing.

However, Dimitrov fought his way back into the set. He leveled in the eighth game before breaking once more in the 12th to snatch the set in which Goffin hit eight more winners.

Dimitrov’s confidence carried into the second set, where he brought up the first break point in the sixth game, only for Goffin to produce a stunning cross-court backhand winner to save it. The momentum back with him, Goffin broke the following game for a 4-3 lead and calmly closed out the set.

Having come from behind to beat Federer in Saturday’s semifinal, Goffin had every reason to be confident and could have gone ahead. But he wasted four break points in the opening game – they would turn out to be his only chances in the decider.

Dimitrov was more clinical, striking in the sixth game to take control. Goffin tested Dimitrov’s nerve by saving three match points on his own serve, before saving one on Dimitrov’s. However the Belgian’s resistance came to an end as he netted a backhand volley, leaving Dimitrov in tears.

(This story has been corrected to show it was the longest three-set final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008, not longest three-set final ever.)

Goffin ousts Federer in ATP Finals semis

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LONDON — David Goffin ended Roger Federer’s bid for a seventh ATP Finals title by stunning the favorite 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday.

The Belgian claimed the biggest win of his career and qualified for the final on Sunday, when he will face Grigor Dimitrov or Jack Sock. They play later Saturday.

Federer looked to be heading toward his 11th final at the elite season-ending tournament when he cruised through the first set, but Goffin took advantage of a drop in his play to level.

Despite having lost all six of his previous encounters with Federer, Goffin was able to execute better in the deciding set, breaking in the third game and producing a nerveless display of serving to seal victory.