Tennis: France's strength in depth gives them the edge against Goffin's Belgium
By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - 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 Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer at the ATP Finals last week, but nine-time champions France seem better armed.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille will spearhead the French challenge from Friday with the doubles pair for Saturday likely to be formed by specialists Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut.
Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who won the doubles titles at the 2015 U.S. Open and at Wimbledon in 2016 with Mahut, has been suffering from back pains and could start as a replacement.
Steve Darcis and Goffin will play the singles for Belgium, with Ruben Bemelmans and Arthur De Greef set to play the doubles in the 27,500-seater Pierre Mauroy stadium.
“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 Yannick 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.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)