France took an early stranglehold on their Davis Cup first-round tie against Japan on Friday as Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon dominated the opening day’s singles matches.
Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Gasquet swept past Taro Daniel 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in Tokyo before Simon overpowered Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to put the visitors firmly in control of the World group clash. (Davis Cup, India vs New Zealand, Day 1 live score, updates)
“It was difficult today from the first point,” insisted world number 24 Simon, despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
“I was moving good and hitting well but he wasn’t giving any free points,” he added after giving Yannick Noah’s French team a 2-0 lead.
“Two wins in straight sets, nothing to complain about -- but we have to stay ready in the doubles tomorrow.”
World number 18 Gasquet was gifted victory after two hours when Daniel coughed up a seventh double-fault of the match.
“I’m in great shape. Today was a great match for me,” purred the Frenchman.
Japan never seriously posed a threat in the absence of world number five Kei Nishikori.
The home side’s hopes now hang by a thread and Wimbledon champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut will look to complete the victory when they take on Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama in Saturday’s doubles.
France have won all three of their previous Davis Cup meetings with Japan, the last of those coming at Roland Garros in 1981.