LILLE, France (Reuters) - France won a place in the Davis Cup final when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Dusan Lajovic 2-6 6-2 7-6(5) 6-2 to give the hosts a 3-1 victory over Serbia on Sunday.
Playing on clay at Lille's Pierre Mauroy stadium in front of an 18,000 crowd, France did not have it easy in their semi-final against a team deprived of former world number one Novak Djokovic as they set up a final at home against Belgium.
France were the heavy favourites against Serbia and they delivered despite unexpectedly losing the first point when Lucas Pouille lost to Lajovic on Friday.
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French number one Tsonga, however, played solid tennis against Laslo Djere and Lajovic to give Les Bleus two points while grand slam champions Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert won their doubles against Filip Krajinovic and Nenad Zimonjic.
"It was an exciting tie and the mindset was perfect," said France team captain Yannick Noah.
"There were ups and downs but let's enjoy it. Being in the final was a dream."
"I'm feeling good," the Frenchman said, beaming. "It's unbelievable for my team. I mean, it's great to take your country and put them on top of the world. It's good, it's always nice."
France played their last final in 2014, losing in Lille to Roger Federer's Switzerland.
In the same arena, Tsonga was broken in the first game and he wasted a break point in the sixth game as Lajovic went 4-2 up in the potentially decisive reverse singles match.
Tsonga kept misfiring and he dropped serve again in the seventh game with Lajovic bagging the first set easily.
Lajovic, however, was a little shaky in the second set and handed Tsonga a break when he double faulted. Tsonga sealed the set on his opponent's serve to level the match.
The Frenchman, 18th in the ATP rankings, served well in the third, just like world number 80 Lajovic, and the set was decided in a tiebreak. Tsonga opened up a 6-3 lead and clinched the set with a service winner.
Lajovic ran out of steam in the final set and Tsonga broke twice to send the home team through to the Nov. 24-26 final against Belgium, who beat Australia 3-2 in Brussels.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Rex Gowar and Clare Fallon)