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By Alberto Amalfi | Sunday, September 17, 2017

 
Steve Darcis

An inspired Steve Darcis defeated Jordan Thompson in the decisive fifth match lifting Belgium past Australia, 3-2, into its third Davis Cup final.

Photo credit: IMAGELLAN/Davis Cup Facebook

The shark showed major closing bite sealing a spirited comeback win for Belgium.

Veteran Steve Darcis saved two set points in the second set surging past Jordan Thompson, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2, completing Belgium’s 3-2 comeback conquest of Australia and sending the nation into the Davis Cup final before its roaring home fans on the red clay of Palais 12 in Brussels, Belgium.

Watch: Tsonga Leads France Into Davis Cup Final

Darcis closed the comeback with flair, soaring for a high backhand volley he flicked over net before dropping to the court where he was swarmed by ecstatic teammates.




The 33-year-old Darcis, nicknamed “Shark”, won a Davis Cup-clinching match for the fifth time 23 career ties.

Australia entered today’s reverse singles holding a 2-1 lead and needing just one victory to reach its first final since 2003.

Darcis and David Goffin both produced inspired performances to propel Belgium’s comeback.

Belgian No. 1 Goffin rode a brilliant serving performance and timely strikes down the line rallying past Aussie No. 1 Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to level the tie and force a decisive fifth match setting the stage for Darcis’ heroics.

It is Belgium’s third Davis Cup final overall, including its second trip to the final in the last three years.




In 2015, Goffin and Darcis led Belgium to its first Davis Cup final in 111 years where it fell to an Andy Murray-led Great Britain at the 13,000-seat Flanders Expo in Ghent, Belgium.

Now, the red swarm will travel to France for the November 24-26th final.

French No. 1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Dusan Lajovic, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-2, giving host France an unassailable 3-1 lead over Serbia in the best-of-five match semifinal on the red clay of Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France.

Les Bleus is through to its 18th Davis Cup final where it will play for its first championship since 2001.

Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt opted to substitute Thompson, who played dynamic tennis partnering John Peers to a doubles sweep yesterday, for scheduled starter John Millman.

The pressure of playing for the final—combined with Darcis’ superior experience and willingness to change direction down the line—proved too much for Thompson, who was playing his fourth career Davis Cup singles match.

The 77th-ranked Darcis made an ideal start breaking Thompson to open the final match.




In their lone prior meeting, Darcis pulled off a gritty comeback from two sets down defeating Thompson, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 7-5 at the 2016 US Open.

On this day, Darcis denied two set points in building a two-set lead.

Staving off a pair of break points in his opening service game of the second set, Darcis held strong then ratcheted up the pressure on Thompson. The 70th-ranked Sydney native double faulted away the break and a 2-1 lead to Darcis.

Undaunted, Thompson broke right back to get back on serve.




The momentum shifted again in the 10th game.

Netting a slice backhand, Darcis faced set point. He slid an ace to save it then fought off a second break point, digging out a determined hold for 5-all.

Missed opportunity haunted Thompson, who clanked a double fault and unforced error to hand the Belgian two break points. Darcis drove the ball deep rattling out a stretched forehand error to break for 6-5.

Serving for a two-set lead, Darcis dipped a backhand winner for triple set point. Banging a biting serve to the Aussie’s backhand, Darcis snatched a two-set lead.

Empowered, Darcis shrewdly mixed no pace slice backhands with flatter drives. He zapped an inside-out forehand earning the double break and a 4-1 third-set lead and never looked back.




Winless in three prior meetings with Kyrgios, including a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 defeat in the Tokyo final last year, Goffin dropped the first set today then flipped the script picking the explosive Aussie apart.

The 5-foot-11 Belgian served 70 percent, pumped 20 aces, did not double fault and denied seven of eight break points fighting past the explosive Kyrgios.

Goffin smacked his 19th ace for match point than zapped his 20th ace out wide to seal a dramatic three hour, nine-minute triumph.




"It's the best match of my Davis Cup career,” Goffin told DavisCup.com. “I was solid on the baseline and so happy to go to the decisive match.

"It's a huge difference to play in my country and on clay. For his serve it's a little bit easier to return but it's never easy to finish a match. To finish with an ace it's a perfect finish."


 

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