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Belgium sets up Davis Cup final against France

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BRUSSELS (AP) David Goffin and Steve Darcis won their reverse singles matches as Belgium defeated 28-time champion Australia 3-2 in the Davis Cup semifinals on Sunday to set up a title match with France in November.

Back with the France Davis Cup team, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier sent his country to its 18th final by defeating Dusan Lajovic 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-2 in Lille.

Belgium recovered from a 2-1 deficit on the indoor clay of the Palais 12 in Brussels.

France will host the final from Nov. 24-26.

With Tsonga’s win, the French reached an unassailable 3-1 lead and the teams decided against playing the final rubber.

Belgium trailed after Saturday’s doubles but managed to turn things around in front of a buoyant crowd. David Goffin first rallied past Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 before Steve Darcis defeated Jordan Thompson 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

Goffin, who had not beaten Kyrgios in three previous matches, returned well and played astute tennis to counter his opponent’s big shots, extending his excellent Davis Cup record to 15 wins from 16 singles matches.

Goffin dropped his serve only once and fell onto his back after hitting two aces in succession to serve out the match after a three-hour battle.

“Everything is in the timing, I think,” Goffin said about his returns, adding “I see the ball earlier than the others so maybe that’s why I have a good return.”

Darcis was set to take on John Millman in the decisive rubber but Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt changed his lineup to send Thompson instead. The move did not pay off as Darcis put on a dominant display, converting five of seven breakpoints. He hit 34 winners and sealed the match on his first chance with a backhand volley that hit the net cord.

France avenged its loss to Serbia in the 2010 final and qualified for its first final since losing to Switzerland in the title match three years ago.

France won the last of its nine titles in 2001 against the Australians while Belgium will be chasing its first trophy in the team event after losing two finals.

“I’m relieved and happy,” said France captain Yannick Noah. “To win the Davis Cup is something extraordinary. Hopefully I will be able to win it with theses lads.”

Noah already captained France to the 1991 and 1996 Davis Cup titles. As a player, he also won the French Open in 1983.

The French did a lap of honor after Tsonga won the decisive point against a depleted Serbian team that gave the hosts a tough challenge.

Tsonga won his second point for France after defeating 22-year-old debutant Laslo Djere in straight sets on Friday to level the tie at 1-1. Two-time Grand Slam champions Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert then gave the hosts a 2-1 lead when they beat Filip Krajinovic and Nenad Zimonjic in the doubles match.

Tsonga, who had decided to skip the Davis Cup this year, changed his mind and made a successful return to the French team.

He was overpowered by his rival in the first set but improved and recovered in the second by upping his game when it mattered, after a double fault from Lajovic gave him an early break.

The third set was close with neither player giving in on the red clay of the Pierre Mauroy stadium. Lajovic was the first to crack despite saving two set points in the tiebreaker when he dumped a backhand return into the net.

Tsonga missed three break chances in the opening game of the fourth set but converted the fourth after Lajovic made two consecutive unforced errors – a double fault and a forehand in the net. The Frenchman then held to love and broke again as Lajovic showed signs of fatigue following his five-set win over Lucas Pouille on Friday. Tsonga then served out the match.

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”

Kuznetsova out of Australian Open after left wrist surgery

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from next month’s Australian Open after having surgery on her left wrist.

Tennis Australia on Friday said No. 12-ranked Kuznetsova and China’s Sasai Zheng, with a right knee injury, were the only players ranked in the top 100 who are confirmed as not playing the Jan. 15-28 tournament at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams, who was pregnant while winning the 2017 Australian Open title and gave birth to her first child in September, “is anticipated to return,” Tennis Australia said.

Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with another win at Melbourne Park. Serena Williams’ ranking has dropped to No. 22 during her break from the tour.