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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.

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.