For all his individual brilliance, David Goffin could not make up for the lack of depth in the Belgian team at the Davis Cup final.
Looking for its first title in the team competition, Belgium lost a second final in three years on Sunday, going down 3-2 to France.
Belgium was guided by an impressive Goffin and spurred on by its raucous fans in the northern city of Lille, close to the Belgian border. Belgium took the final to the second reverse singles where Steve Darcis was routed 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 by Lucas Pouille.
The French, with a team featuring Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Pouille, Richard Gasquet and doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert, were favorites to win their 10th title.
But the seventh-ranked Goffin proved a problem for the hosts throughout the weekend, winning his two singles matches against Tsonga and Pouille without dropping a set.
"The best player this weekend was on the Belgian side," said former top-ranked player Justine Henin of Belgium.
France made a crucial step toward the title by winning Saturday's doubles, and the 76th-ranked Darcis was outclassed in both his singles matches.
After recovering from an ankle injury he sustained at the French Open, Goffin still finished the year on a personal high note. Before losing to Grigor Dimitrov for the ATP Finals title in London last week, he also claimed back-to-back titles at Shenzhen and Tokyo.
He was able to carry his great form to Lille, where he demolished Pouille on Friday and delighted the crowd with a vast array of stunning shots against Tsonga.
"I played my best tennis," Goffin said.
Goffin, who has not lost a Davis Cup singles match since losing to Andy Murray in the 2015 final, improved his singles record in the competition to 21-3.
Saddened by the loss, Goffin said he finished his season with the "sense of having done my duty."
"When the team loses, we're all disappointed. We gave it our all. It's tough to finish this way but we did a lot of good things as a team this year ... We'll see how things go (next year)."
Belgium captain Johan Van Herck said the highlights of his weekend were "the two matches of David" but insisted he was proud of his team.
"One day I'm sure we will win the Davis Cup," he said.
Darcis, the weak link of the Belgian team with two straight-set losses, submitted himself to harsh self-criticism.
"I was bad," Darcis said. "I was spanked twice. I'm appalled by my performance."