Lucas Pouille

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French players voice concerns over new Davis Cup format

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LILLE, France — French players don’t like the new Davis Cup format and they’re saying it loud and clear.

After failing to defend their title this weekend in northern France in a 3-1 loss to Croatia, the French lashed out at future plans adopted earlier this year and Lucas Pouille said he would boycott the competition from now on.

This weekend marked the last time in the 118-year-old competition history that the final was played in a best-of-five matches format and over a three-day weekend. Starting next year, the top team event in men’s tennis will be decided with a season-ending, 18-team tournament at a neutral site.

The International Tennis Federation believes this format, with matches played in best-of-three sets, will be more attractive to elite players who often pass on competing for their countries because of a crowded schedule. The French tennis federation supported the reform.

“I’m extremely sorry because of the ITF decision,” doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert said. “It was the last true Davis Cup.”

Herbert’s partner, Nicolas Mahut, said he spoke with ITF David Haggerty immediately after the final to express his discontent. “I believe he understood very well what I wanted to say,” said Mahut, without giving details.

Lucas Pouille, who was thrashed in straight sets by Marin Cilic on Sunday a year after he wrapped up France’s 10th title, said he would not play in the Davis Cup anymore.

“Last year I was crying of joy, this year I was crying because I was sad,” Pouille said. “I’m not going to change my mind about the new format. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to play in the Davis Cup anymore. That was the last time.”

The ITF said it expects the new format will help generate more money for tennis development around the world. A $3 billion, 25-year deal has been agreed by the ITF with Kosmos, an investment group founded by the Barcelona defender Gerard Pique.

Mahut claimed tennis stakeholders should have come up with better solutions.

“There are other means to find money. The Grand Slams tournaments could have given some of their revenues and the Davis Cup would have been saved,” Mahut said. “We needed to find ways to lighten the schedule, we had so many good ideas to save that competition. There were other solutions.”

France’s Davis Cup captain Yannick Noah, who oversaw his last Davis Cup match this weekend and will be replaced by Amelie Mauresmo, is also a fervent opponent of the overhaul.

“It will never be the same, it’s going to be something else,” said Noah, who guided France to three Davis Cup titles. “I really hope this is not going to be called the Davis Cup. Playing two sets is not the Davis Cup. They are lying. I told (Haggerty) to his face I’m disgusted and upset because this is the way I feel. The Davis Cup was so much for me.”

Jaziri upsets top-seeded Dimitrov at Dubai Championships

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Tunisian wild-card entry Malek Jaziri earned the biggest victory of his career by stunning top-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the opening round of the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old Jaziri, ranked 117th in the world, recorded his first win over a top-5 ranked player by beating the Bulgarian No. 4 in 2 hours, 17 minutes.

Fifth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France was also eliminated, losing to Croatia’s Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3. However, second-seeded Lucas Pouille avoided a similar slip-up as the Frenchman ousted Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-4, 6-4.

Jaziri saved three break points in the second game of the opening set but lost his serve in the 10th game. Dimitrov’s intensity then dropped in the second set and Jaziri broke in the 11th game before holding serve to level the match.

In the decider, Jaziri saved two more break points in the sixth game and the Bulgarian then double-faulted to give his opponent three break points in the next game. Jaziri converted the second for the decisive break.

“I was really aggressive today. I tried hard to keep the ball in, tried hard to attack him, to make a lot of variety in the game today,” Jaziri said. “I tried to keep going, kept encouraging myself by saying, `It’s OK, next game is my serve.’ It was most important is to keep winning my serve. That was the objective in the third set.”

Dimitrov refused to blame any injury, or the cold that affected him in the final loss to Roger Federer in Rotterdam recently, for his performance.

“You have days like this when you can’t really do much else. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play my game to the extent that I was looking for. My movement wasn’t good over the court. I thought I served OK for a little bit, but then I lost my rhythm again,” he said.

Jaziri will next face Dutchman Robin Haase for a place in the quarterfinals. Pouille will get a rematch against Russian Karen Khachanov, who beat him in the Marseille final last Sunday.

Karen Khachanov beats Lucas Pouille to win Open 13 final

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) Big-serving Karen Khachanov secured the second ATP title of his career after beating Lucas Pouille 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 in the Open 13 final on Sunday.

The ninth-seeded Russian had 16 aces in a closely fought contest, winning on his second match point when the third-seeded Frenchman hit a forehand into the net from the back of the court. The pair hugged at the net in a show of sportsmanship.

“I hope there are many more finals between us in the future,” Khachanov said to Pouille. “I felt I was playing good here from the first day. It’s nice to play on a full court in the final, and I hope to come back next year.”

Khachanov, ranked 47th, won his second title in as many finals after clinching the Chengdu Open in China two years ago. Pouille missed out on a second title of the season and a sixth overall. The 16th-ranked Pouille was also runner-up at the indoor event in the southern seaport of Marseille last year.

“I’m from Dunkirk, in the north,” he told the crowd. “But I’m starting to feel at home here.”

As Khachanov held aloft the winners’ cheque for 115,150 euros ($141, 570), Pouille cracked a joke in English.

“You’ve got to pay the plane for Dubai now,” he said, looking ahead to next week’s ATP500 tournament. “Congratulations, I hope there are many more wins for you.”

Khachanov broke Pouille in the third game to take an early control. Pouille broke back with a fine backhand winner down the line to make it 5-5, but then lost his next service game as Khachanov whipped a forehand winner down the right side of the court.

It gave the imposing Russian a second chance to serve for the set and he clinched it with a strong service winner.

After saving two break points at 15-40 in the opening game of the second set, Pouille secured the only break of that set to level the match.

Khachanov hit nine aces in the third set and neither faced a break point until the 12th game on Pouille’s serve.

It gave Khachanov a match point but he missed a fairly routine smash at the net following a rally. Pouille double faulted to give him another chance to win.