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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.”

Top-ranked Halep wins tough 3-setter in Miami

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania struggled to post a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 second-round win over French lucky loser Oceane Dodin at the Miami Open on Thursday.

In the first career meeting between the players, Halep allowed the 98th-ranked Dodin to break her serve on six of seven opportunities she presented in the match, which lasted more than two hours.

Halep broke Dodin’s serve for the seventh time at 4-4 in the third set before closing it out.

Halep played in her third career Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, but has yet to secure a Grand Slam trophy.

Halep’s best Miami Open was reaching the 2015 semifinals.

Also Thursday, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber of Germany advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Johanna Larsson of Sweden.

Kerber is 19-4 this year and has reached at least the quarterfinals of all five tournaments she’s played.

Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open and U.S. Open champion, won her first tournament since that U.S. Open at Sydney in January. She also reached the Australian Open semifinals.

Serena Williams loses in first round at Miami Open to Osaka

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Serena Williams lost in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday, still rusty in her return from pregnancy and unable to overcome a tough draw against Naomi Osaka, who won 6-3, 6-2.

The 20-year-old Osaka, who earned her first career title Sunday at Indian Wells, showed no signs of letup and overpowered the erratic Williams. Osaka had the stronger serve, and in rallies wore down Williams working her from side to side.

The matchup worthy of a final came about because both players are unseeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best 22nd, while Williams’ ranking is 491st after her layoff of more than a year.

Another new mother and former No. 1, three-time Key Biscayne champion Victoria Azarenka, defeated Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-0.

Williams has endured a first-round defeat only four other times, most recently at the 2012 French Open. The latest loss came at a tournament she has won a record eight times and considers her hometown event.

The match was the last for Williams at Key Biscayne, 90 miles south of her home in Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament is moving next year to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, and Williams helped with the ceremonial groundbreaking Monday.

After her defeat, she left without speaking to the media.

Because of Williams’ ranking, she entered the draw as a wild card, and looked the part. She was a step slow to balls in the corners and often late with her swing, while she put barely half her first serves in play.

Osaka, who has both American and Japanese citizenship and lives in Fort Lauderdale, was playing her idol for the first time but didn’t seem a bit fazed. She improved to 14-4 this year.

Things may get tougher for her in the second round, when she’ll face No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis