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Pouille to lead France in Davis Cup final against Croatia

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PARIS — Lucas Pouille will lead France in the Davis Cup final against Croatia this month as the hosts bid to win successive titles.

Pouille was the highest-ranked player among Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Jeremy Chardy, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the team picked by captain Yannick Noah on Tuesday

Pouille wrapped up France’s 10th Davis title last year by winning the decisive point against Belgium in the final.

France’s top player, the 26th-ranked Richard Gasquet, announced his withdrawal on Monday because of a groin injury.

In the absence of Gasquet, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon, Pouille is the best ranked French player at No. 32. Tsonga has been sidelined by a knee injury for most of the season and dropped to 261st.

On paper, the Croats are favorites with No. 7-ranked Marin Cilic and No. 12 Borna Coric.

But Noah said he was unfazed by statistics.

“The only thing I know is that our goal is to win against the Croats,” Noah said. “The mindset, the ability to adapt to clay, and the commitment to Davis Cup are what really matters.”

Like last year, the final will be at Pierre Mauroy Stadium in the northern city of Lille from Nov. 23-25 under a retractable roof.

Noah has summoned his players for a training camp nearby outside the city.

“It’s easier to work as a group away from all the excitement,” he said.

Pouille, Tsonga, and Chardy have already started training. Herbert and Mahut will join them after playing doubles at the ATP Finals in London. The pair lost its first group match and Mahut picked up a slight ankle injury after he chased down a ball close to the advertising boards and fell into the line judge’s chair. Noah said he would call Julien Benneteau as a replacement for Mahut if he can’t play in the final.

Noah, who guided France to Davis Cup titles in 1991, 1996, and 2017, will step down after the final, and Amelie Mauresmo will take over.

“I’m very excited,” the former French Open champion said. “It’s been two months that we have been preparing for this last final with my staff. I’m both motivated and excited.”

Bencic beats 2-time defending champ Svitolina in Dubai semi

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic stopped Elina Svitolina’s bid for a third consecutive title at the Dubai Championships by beating her 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in the semifinals Friday.

The 45th-ranked Bencic won her third match in a row against a top-10 opponent and will face yet another, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, in Saturday’s final at the hard-court tournament.

Kvitova advanced to her third final of 2019 by edging Hsieh Su-wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The No. 2-seeded Kvitova picked up her tour-high 17th victory of 2019.

Bencic is seeking her third career title, Kvitova her 27th.

Against No. 6 seed Svitolina, Bencic trailed 5-3 in the third set. This was her latest in a string of comebacks. She saved six match points against eighth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, then erased a set deficit to beat third-seeded Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.

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Bencic upsets Halep to reach Dubai semifinals

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic rallied to beat second-ranked Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 Thursday to reach the Dubai Championships semifinals.

Bencic, who saved six match points in the previous round against Aryna Sabalenka, failed to capitalize on an early break in the first set but Halep continued to struggle with her serve and was broken seven times in total. Bencic broke for a 5-4 lead in the second and then raced out to a 3-0 lead in the decider, having won six games in a row. Halep, who was playing her ninth match in 13 days after reaching the final in Qatar last week, got one break back but Bencic broke again for a 5-2 lead before converting her third match point.

Second-seeded Petra Kvitova had no such problems, winning the last eight games to oust Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-0 to book her spot in the last four. Kvitova, the 2013 Dubai champion, needed just 62 minutes to wrap up the win. She will next face Su-wei Hsieh of Taiwan, who came from 5-1 down in the final set to beat fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. It was the latest upset for Hsieh, who ousted Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber on Wednesday.

In the final quarterfinal, Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain was playing Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

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