Tsonga sends France into Davis Cup final
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga clinched a Davis Cup semifinal victory for France against Serbia by defeating Dusan Lajovic 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-2 in Lille on Sunday.
France reached an unassailable 3-1 lead and will face either Belgium or 28-time champion Australia in the final. That clash in Brussels was 2-2 after home favorite David Gofin beat Australia's Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the first reverse singles. Steve Darcis was taking on John Millman in the crucial last clash.
France avenged its loss to Serbia in the 2010 final and qualified for its first final since losing to Switzerland in the title match three years ago. The French will play at home from November 24-26 if Belgium wins, or travel to Australia.
France won the last of its nine titles in 2001 against the Australians.
"I'm relieved and happy," said France captain Yannick Noah. "To win the Davis Cup is something extraordinary. Hopefully I will be able to win it with theses lads."
Noah already captained France to the 1991 and 1996 Davis Cup titles. As a player, he also won the French Open in 1983.
The French did a lap of honor after Tsonga won the decisive point against a depleted Serbian team which gave a tough challenge to the hosts.
Tsonga won his second point for France after defeating 22-year-old debutante Laslo Djere in straight sets on Friday to level the tie at 1-1. Two-time Grand Slam champions Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert then gave the hosts a 2-1 lead when they beat Filip Krajinovic and Nenad Zimonjic in the doubles match.
Tsonga, who had not played in Davis Cup this season, made a successful return to the French team.
He was overpowered by his rival in the first set but improved and recovered in the second by upping his game when it mattered, after a double fault from Lajovic gave him an early break.
The third set was close with neither player giving an inch on the red clay of the Pierre Mauroy stadium. Lajovic was the first to crack despite saving two set points in the tiebreaker when he dumped a backhand return into the net.
Tsonga missed three break chances in the opening game of the fourth set but converted the fourth after Lajovic made two consecutive unforced errors — a double fault and a forehand in the net. The Frenchman then held to love and broke again as Lajovic showed signs of fatigue following his five-set win over Lucas Pouille on Friday. Tsonga then served out the match.
Earlier in Astana, last year's Davis Cup champion Argentina was knocked out of the competition's top tier with defeat to Kazakhstan.
Mikhail Kukushkin defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (2) in a battle between the teams' top-ranked players to give Kazakhstan an unassailable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five match in Central Asia.
Schwartzman, who as the 28th-ranked player is 50 places above Kukushkin, lost his first two service games in each of the first two sets and struggled to recover.
Argentina — which didn't have its top-ranked player Juan Martin del Potro in Kazakhstan — is the first reigning Davis Cup champion to be relegated since Sweden in 1999.
Argentina was last outside the top-tier World Group in 2001, while Kazakhstan returns following relegation last year.