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Impressive Goffin fails in bid for Davis Cup title

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LILLE, France (AP) For all his individual brilliance, David Goffin could not make up for the lack of depth in the Belgian team at the Davis Cup final.

Looking for its first title in the team competition, Belgium lost a second final in three years on Sunday, going down 3-2 to France.

Belgium was guided by an impressive Goffin and spurred on by its raucous fans in the northern city of Lille, close to the Belgian border. Belgium took the final to the second reverse singles where Steve Darcis was routed 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 by Lucas Pouille.

The French, with a team featuring Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Pouille, Richard Gasquet and doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert, were favored to win their 10th title.

But the seventh-ranked Goffin proved a problem for the hosts throughout the weekend, winning his two singles matches against Tsonga and Pouille without dropping a set.

“The best player this weekend was on the Belgian side,” said former top-ranked player Justine Henin of Belgium.

France made a crucial step toward the title by winning Saturday’s doubles, and the 76th-ranked Darcis was outclassed in both his singles matches.

After recovering from an ankle injury he sustained at the French Open, Goffin still finished the year on a personal high note. Before losing to Grigor Dimitrov for the ATP Finals title in London last week, he also claimed back-to-back titles at Shenzhen and Tokyo.

He was able to carry his great form to Lille, where he demolished Pouille on Friday and delighted the crowd with a vast array of stunning shots against Tsonga.

“I played my best tennis,” Goffin said.

Goffin, who has not lost a Davis Cup match since losing to Andy Murray in the 2015 final, improved his record in the competition to 21-3.

Saddened by the loss, Goffin said he finished his season with the “sense of having done my duty.”

Belgium captain Johan Van Herck said the highlights of his weekend were “the two matches of David” but insisted he was proud of his team.

“One day I’m sure we will win the Davis Cup,” he said.

Darcis, the weak link of the Belgian team with two straight-set losses, submitted himself to harsh self-criticism.

“I was bad,” Darcis said. “I was spanked twice. I’m appalled by my performance.”

Two-time champ Azarenka gets Australian Open wild card

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has been awarded a wild card for the Australian Open.

Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has been involved in a custody dispute involving her son Leo, who was born last Dec. 19.

She hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon, where she lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10. The dispute with her former partner started shortly after Wimbledon ended.

Azarenka has played only six matches this year and is ranked 208th.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday that every assistance would be provided to the former No. 1, adding “Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can.”

The Australian Open starts on Jan. 15.

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.”