France and Serbia are level at 1-1 in their Davis Cup semi-final after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga dispatched 22-year-old debutant Laslo Djere in straight sets following Lucas Pouille’s shock defeat in the opening singles match.
In the absence of Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic, the French were expected to enjoy a calm weekend in the northern city of Lille. But Dusan Lajovic made the most of Pouille’s inconsistent display to give Serbia a 1-0 lead on the red clay of the Pierre Mauroy Stadium.
The 80th-ranked Lajovic made a strong start and capitalised on Pouille’s mistakes to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5). The Frenchman never found the right tempo, made wrong tactical choices, and hit a total of 70 unforced errors.
Playing with the French Davis Cup team for the first time this season, Tsonga made a successful return in the team competition and won 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-3.
The other semi-final, being played on clay in Brussels between Belgium and Australia, is also tied at 1-1.
David Goffin produced a hard-fought win against Australian John Millman to earn the hosts an early lead. Goffin won a tight baseline battle that lasted three-and-a-half hours against Millman, triumphing 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (4) to extend his Davis Cup record to 14 wins from 15 matches.
Australia, 28-time champions, are chasing a spot in the final for the first time since it won the title in 2003, while Belgium are trying to reach the final for only the third time.
“Physically I’m not at my best, but I knew for the team and the fans that I had to leave my heart out on the court,” said Goffin, who has been hampered by a knee injury recently. “To give one point to your country is the best feeling you can have.”
Nick Kyrgios squared the game by beating Steve Darcis of Belgium 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 6-1, 6-2.
Belgium’s Arthur de Greef and Ruben Bemelmans are expected to team up against Australians John Peers and Jordan Thompson in Saturday’s doubles, with French pair Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut facing Filip Krajinovic and Zimonjic in Lille.