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.”

Gilbert Klier Junior hit with 12-month doping ban

Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida /USA TODAY NETWORK
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LONDON — Brazilian Gilbert Klier Junior, a bronze medalist at the 2018 Youth Olympics, has been banned for 12 months in a doping case, the International Tennis Integrity Agency said.

The ITIA said it had accepted that Klier Junior had not deliberately doped and that the banned substance SARM S-22 had entered his body through a contaminated supplement. However, it said he bore some responsibility, especially “following other high profile cases involving Brazilian tennis players and other sports people.”

The 22-year-old Klier Junior has a career high ranking of 354th and won bronze in the singles event at the 2018 Youth Olympics.

The ban was backdated to start from last June, when Klier Junior was first suspended from competition while the case was resolved.

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

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Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.