Defending champ France loses, Belgium wins at Billie Jean King Cup final

Canada won the decisive doubles match to secure a 2-1 upset victory over defending champion France in Group A of the Billie Jean King Cup finals on Monday.

After the two nations split the opening singles matches, Gabriela Dabrowski and Rebecca Marino defeated Lara Burel and Alize Cornet 6-3, 7-6 (6).

โ€œWe should be really proud of ourselves,โ€ Marino said.

In the opening singles, the 353th-ranked Francoise Abanda rallied from a set down to upset Fiona Ferro, ranked 105th, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to put Canada ahead.

โ€œI was a little bit nervous at the beginning,โ€ the Canadian said. โ€œIโ€™m happy it turned out in my favour.โ€

Cornet tied it at 1-1 after a 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over Marino.

It was the second victory for Canada over France in the competition in five matchups, with the previous one coming in 1980.

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In Group B, Belgium beat Belarus 2-1 in another opening match played on hard courts at the O2 Arena.

Greet Minnen defeated Iryna Shymanovich 6-2, 6-2 before Elise Mertens overcame a second-set scare to beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 for an insurmountable 2-0 lead.

In doubles, Vera Lapko and Aliaksandra Sasnovich teamed up to take a consolation 6-4, 6-3 victory over Kirsten Flipkens and Mertens.

On Tuesday, Canada faces Russia and Belgium takes on Australia.

The competition, formerly known as the Fed Cup, was renamed last year to honour Billie Jean King and her lifelong battle for equality and social justice.

It was originally scheduled to take place in Budapest, Hungary, in April 2020 but was postponed for 12 months when the coronavirus pandemic was declared. In February, it was postponed again.

Organizers were then forced to find a new host- Prague -when Budapest backed out in May, citing lingering COVID-19 concerns.

The 12 teams in the finals this year are divided into four groups of three teams. Only the group winners advance to Fridayโ€™s semifinals.

Later Monday, the Czech Republic plays Germany while Spain meets Slovakia.

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