Paris: France’s strength in depth makes them the favourites for this week’s Davis Cup final against Belgium, who will need David Goffin to be at his very best to stand a chance in the three-day showdown in Lille.
Belgium, seeking their first title, will be led by world number seven Goffin, who beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the ATP Finals, but nine-time champions France seem better armed.
In Thursday’s draw, captain Yannick Noah named Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lucas Pouille, Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert for the event.
Doubles specialists Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau were omitted from the France team to play Belgium in the final starting on Friday.
Mahut, who has taken part in five of six ties since Noah became captain in 2016, and Benneteau had trained together this week.
Belgium will be led by Goffin and Steve Darcis, with Joris De Loore and Ruben Bemelmans down to play Saturday’s doubles.
Friday’s first singles rubber will feature world number seven Goffin, who reached the final at the ATP Tour finals earlier this month, and Pouille.
Tsonga will then take on Darcis before Gasquet and Herbert face Bemelmans and Loore in the doubles.
The reverse singles rubbers will be played on Sunday.
Belgium have never won the title while France claimed the last of their nine wins in 2001.
“I think the French team are the favourite,” Belgium captain Johan Van Herck said.
“They play at home so for me they are the favourites. But we are a good Davis Cup team, we are going to challenge them. I think it will be a very interesting tie but they will start as favourites.”
Belgium reached the final in 2015 but were beaten by Britain.
France lost the 2002, 2010 and 2014 finals -- the last time in the very same stadium against Switzerland -- but this time enter the event with the odds on their side.
“We’re looking to write our piece of history. As the French team, we’ve won before but it was a long time ago,” said captain Noah, who skippered his country to Davis Cup titles in 1991 and 1996.
"Now we’re preparing to do our own with this team. This is what we’re looking for.”
Tsonga and Pouille go into the event in fine form.
Pouille beat Tsonga in the Vienna Open final last month, after Tsonga won the Antwerp Open.
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Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 16:27:18 IST