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Chardy to open for France against Croatia in Davis Cup final

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LILLE, France — With no player standing out as a clear leader, France captain Yannick Noah chose Jeremy Chardy ahead of Lucas Pouille for the opening match of the Davis Cup final against Croatia.

The 40th-ranked Chardy, in the team only after Richard Gasquet withdrew injured, will lead defending champion France against Borna Coric on indoor clay at Pierre Mauroy Stadium on Friday.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who’s missed most of the year through injury and dropped to 259th in the rankings, will play Marin Cilic, Croatia’s top player, in the second singles.

Pouille sealed France’s victory over Belgium in last year’s final and was widely expected to be playing again.

Noah explained after the draw on Thursday, “I have the feeling that in Davis Cup the one who attacks generally wins. And Jeremy is a terrific attacking player.”

Although he’s in his first Davis Cup final, Chardy has won all three of his previous rubbers on indoor clay, and has a 2-1 record against Coric.

“I did not feel I’m the favorite,” the 12th-ranked Coric said. “It’s 50-50. I’ve lost twice against Chardy. The last time on clay.”

It’s the second consecutive year Noah has taken a gamble in the final. Last year, he fielded an inexperienced pair in doubles and was rewarded by a victory that put France one point away from the title.

“It’s never easy to make choices,” Noah said. “This one was very difficult, and subtle. The strength in this team is that we have three players capable of playing in singles.”

Noah took advantage of a new rule this year increasing the size of teams from four to five players, giving captains more leeway in selection. He said Pouille, who was born close to Lille, will be ready to play on Sunday if needed.

“Honestly, I was not surprised,” Croatia captain Zeljko Krajan said of Noah’s nominations. “I know Yannick can sometimes pull a joker out of his pocket and I thought Chardy could be his joker this weekend.”

Tsonga appears to be set up for a thrashing from Cilic.

Cilic qualified for the eight-man ATP Finals this month, while Tsonga returned to competitive tennis only in September after a seven-month absence due to a knee injury. But Noah said he has been impressed by Tsonga’s form during France’s training camp.

Tsonga said the prospect of playing in the final gave him an extra motivation to come back.

“When I was struggling, the only way to hang on was to think about the fabulous moments which deserve our sacrifices,” Tsonga said. “When I decided to return it was, among other things, because of the Davis Cup.”

Cilic praised the quality of the clay court under the roof of Lille’s soccer stadium but complained about the lightning and the uneven temperature across the arena.

“The light is not good at all,” he said. “It’s difficult to see in the corners.”

Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who reached the final at the ATP Finals, are scheduled to face Croatian pair Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig in Saturday’s doubles.

In Sunday’s reverse singles, Chardy is set to face Cilic, and Tsonga to take on Coric.

Serena Williams launches pop-up shop during Art Basel Miami

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Strong. Sophisticated. Sexy. Like the tennis champ herself, Serena Williams’ fashion line is all about power moves and she’s hoping it will also inspire woman to find their own voice.

“I want everyone to be able to do that and to step into their power,” she said Wednesday night at the launch of her first pop-up shop.

Williams launched her shop at the luxe Faena hotel during Miami’s Art Basel where guests, including fellow tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, drank cocktails draped with fluffy pink cotton candy and snapped selfies from a life-size swing covered with botanicals.

Everything in the line, from a black sequined top with the word “Unbothered” to a crisp, white button-down that says “Slay” in red letters, is under $200.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion not only designed all the clothing in the shop, but also painted all the art on the walls, saying many of the paintings took a month to complete because of their intricate textures.

“I’ve painted for years, probably like ten years now. It’s my outlet,” she said. “I jokingly said I’m going to be at Art Basel one day.”

It’s been an awe-inspiring year for Williams, who said she was “pinching myself, like what the heck am I doing here,” at the Wimbledon final in July after a difficult pregnancy and childbirth.

She said her recent accomplishments on the court helped her persevere through the challenges of being a first-time mom.

“If I can be in the final less than a year (after giving birth), I’m OK to handle my little baby who’s starting to have tantrums. I’m OK to handle this tantrum baby. I can do it. I can do it,” she joked, speaking of her 15-month old daughter.

Last month, GQ magazine named her its 2018 Woman of the Year, featuring an image of Williams wearing a black bodysuit and Chanel belt. The headline crossed out “Men” and some fans took offense.

But Williams, who has been criticized for being too muscular, too strong and too outspoken throughout her career, said it was “really cool” and just another example of women breaking down barriers.

“This is a strictly men’s thing but they broke and said, `Let’s also put a woman on (the cover) because this is a strong woman. She’s just as strong as our men.”‘

Art Basel Miami Beach, the prestigious extension of the annual contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, has spawned dozens of other art shows around Miami over the years, along with star-studded parties days in advance.

Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio and rapper Cardi B, fresh from a split with rapper Offset, were all spotted making the rounds Wednesday night.

Mauresmo gives up France Davis Cup captaincy to help Pouille

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PARIS — Amelie Mauresmo won’t be captaining France’s Davis Cup team after all because the two-time major winner is going back to coaching to help Lucas Pouille.

The French Tennis Federation announced Thursday it was searching for a new captain, who will also look after the national team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A statement from the federation said Mauresmo gave up the role to focus on her new job with French player Pouille, ranked 32.

The winner of the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006, who retired from playing in 2009, previously coached Andy Murray.

The former top-ranked Mauresmo was announced in June as the successor to Yannick Noah, who is stepping down after France’s 3-1 loss to Croatia in the final last month, having previously guided the team to three Davis Cup titles.