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David Goffin will soon find out if his self-confidence can help him get over fatigue. Following victories over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer last week at the ATP Finals, Goffin’s morale is rock solid as he prepares to lead Belgium against France in the Davis Cup final.
The French, with a team featuring Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lucas Pouille and doubles specialists including Nicolas Mahut, Julien Benneteau and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, are favoured to win a 10th title, their first since 2001 after losing finals in 2002, 2010 and 2014.
The Belgians can’t boast the same depth in their squad, with Steve Darcis, Ruben Bemelmans and Arthur De Greef expected to play a role this weekend alongside Goffin in the northern French city of Lille, where the hosts have opted for an indoor hard court.
Despite an ailing knee and 11 singles matches played over the past month, the seventh-ranked Goffin is carrying the hopes of Belgium to finally lift the Davis Cup trophy.
“Because I’m a top 10 player people expect me to win my two singles matches,” said Goffin, who has an impressive 19-3 Davis Cup record in singles matches. “My knee needs some rest following my runner-up spot at the Masters last Sunday, but for now it holds. I won’t have any problem playing at 110 percent over the whole weekend.”
The 26-year-old Goffin has recovered from an ankle injury he sustained at the French Open to finish the year on a high note. Before losing to Grigor Dimitrov for the ATP Finals title in London, Goffin claimed back-to-back titles at Shenzhen and Tokyo. Next could be a Davis Cup triumph in the heated atmosphere of the 27,500-capacity Pierre Mauroy Stadium, where thousands of Belgium’s fans will gather after making the short trip across the border.
“It would be really nice to finish the year like that,” Goffin said. “It’s such a nice event, really important for us, for the country, for Belgium. It would be incredible to go back home with the trophy. We are not the favourites. We have almost nothing to lose here.”
The pressure will indeed be on French shoulders. Led by captain Yannick Noah, the hosts are looking for their first title on home soil since 1991, and recent statistics don’t play in their favour: In the last four finals, the visiting team won the title, including three years ago when Switzerland defeated France at the same venue.
Noah, the last Frenchman to win a Grand Slam title back in 1983 at Roland Garros, has never won the Davis Cup as a player but captained his country to victory twice, in 1991 and 1996 in Sweden.
“We’re looking to write our piece of history,” Noah said. “As the French team, we’ve won before. But it was a long time ago. Now we’re preparing to do our own with this team. This is what we’re looking for.”
Another issue for the French team is Goffin’s tendency to be at his best when he plays with his country. The seventh-ranked Goffin has won 15 of the last 16 singles matches he played for Belgium.
“We are convinced that we can win, otherwise we would not step onto the court,” Goffin said. The 15th-ranked Tsonga and No. 18 Pouille are expected to lead the French team in singles play, with Benneteau and Richard Gasquet listed as substitutes. Herbert and Mahut, who played in doubles at the ATP Finals, have been selected as a team. But Herbert has been struggling with a back injury recently and Noah could be tempted to pair Mahut and Benneteau in Saturday’s doubles.
“The final decision will be made at the last minute,” Noah said. “It will be difficult because all six players are in form. I’ve had easier choices to make.”
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