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France-Belgium 2-2 in Davis Cup final after Goffin wins

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LILLE, France (AP) David Goffin kept alive Belgium’s hopes of winning its first Davis Cup title by beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-2 in the first reverse singles match on Sunday to level the final at 2-2.

Goffin, who also won his opening singles without dropping a set, delivered a superb performance to defeat France’s top player.

Belgium’s Steve Darcis will be up against Lucas Pouille in the final match. Darcis has won all five decisive matches he has played in the Davis Cup so far.

Tsonga served extremely well in the first set and had six chances to break Goffin, but his Belgian rival weathered some blistering groundstrokes and showed nerves of steel on important points.

Goffin saved a set point with a forehand winner at 6-5 and sealed the tiebreaker on his first chance, with a backhand winner down the line.

“I missed several chances in the first set, I should have been more opportunistic,” Tsonga said. “After, it was complicated, he played more relaxed and there was not much I could do.”

The seventh-ranked Goffin broke for a 4-2 lead in the second set after Tsonga double faulted, and broke twice in the third set after pressuring the Frenchman into many mistakes.

Goffin has been in terrific form recently and was runner-up at the ATP Finals last week in London, where he defeated both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Despite fatigue and an ailing knee, Goffin carried his London form into the northern French city of Lille, where he demolished Pouille on Friday before Tsonga leveled at 1-1 with a straight-set win over Darcis. The French won Saturday’s doubles.

Goffin treated the raucous Belgian fans to some stunning shots, and effectively ended Tsonga’s resistance early in the second set when he saved another break point with a fine drop-shot volley. Goffin then hit a big serve and an ace to stay in control.

Tsonga, who received treatment on his neck after the opening set, looked more and more discouraged as the match progressed and made two straight unforced errors to trail 4-1 in the third set.

Tsonga and France captain Yannick Noah were furious at deuce in the sixth game when umpire James Keothavong refused to allow a video challenge. Tsonga thought Goffin’s shot was out – and stopped playing – but he failed to raise his hand to signal the ball was out.

The match resumed after several minutes amid boos and whistles from the crowd. Tsonga saved two match points in the seventh game but could not prevent Goffin from closing out the match on his next service game.

Federer survives scare to advance in Halle

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HALLE, Germany (AP) Defending champion Roger Federer survived two match points against Benoit Paire to reach the quarterfinals of the Gerry Weber Open with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7) win on Thursday.

Paire rallied after losing the first set to take the second, and the Frenchman defended two match points at 6-5 in the decider to force a tiebreaker. Eight minutes later, it was a match point for the 48th-ranked Paire, and again when a mistake from Federer left it 7-6 in Paire’s favor.

But the top-ranked Swiss took the next three points to close the match in just under two hours at the grass-court tournament.

Federer extended his grass-court winning streak to 18 matches, including his titles in Stuttgart last week and at Halle and Wimbledon last year.

Federer skipped the entire clay-court season for the second year in a row and is now just four wins away from matching Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 174 victories on grass.

Federer next faces Matthew Ebden of Australia, who upset former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Also Thursday, Borna Coric defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2.

The Croat next faces either Florian Mayer or Andreas Seppi.

Magdalena shows form on grass in Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Magdalena Rybarikova, who climbed almost 90 places last year to reach a career-high No. 17 in March, showed she might rise even further after rallying against Kristina Mladenovic 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals in Birmingham.

The Slovak accelerated toward victory against the former top 10 player from France with an array of slice ground strokes, clever approaches and sharp volleys. The range of shots worked excellently on the lush surface at the grass-court Nature Valley Classic and helped her take control midway through the second set.

Rybarikova last year reached the Wimbledon semifinals. She is a former champion here, winning the title in 2009.

In the first round she beat third-seeded Karolina Pliskova for the loss of only five games but found it tougher against Mladenovic.

“I started to play very well,” Rybarikova said of her improvement from the fourth game of the second set against Mladenovic. “She served great to begin with and I struggled with my returns, but I kept fighting and my game improved a lot.

“I think I’d been a bit passive. The key was when I played more cross-court slices and drops and made an early break in the second set.

“That’s the way I am trying to play on grass. I am thankful that I have the game to do that. This court here really suits my game.”

At the changeover in the fifth game of the second set, Mladenovic’s morale appeared to plunge, and afterward her error ratio rose sharply with her standard dropping significantly.

The third set of a match which lasted nearly two hours took only 22 minutes, and long before the end the outcome had ceased to be in doubt.

Rybarikova next faces Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic, who on Tuesday overcame a difference in rankings of almost 100 places and saved four match points while beating seventh-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium.

Jakupovic followed up Wednesday by getting past 18th-ranked Naomi Osaka of Japan, who recently beat four former top-ranked opponents. Osaka was forced to retired injured after losing the first set 6-3.