France batter Japan in Davis Cup singles

Tokyo: 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 semifinalist 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.
“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 and found a good rhythm,” 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.
“I was the favourite but I’ve lost a few matches against guys ranked in the 100s. There can always be surprises so you have to get the job done.”
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.
“I’m pretty confident for the doubles tomorrow,” said Simon. “But in tennis you never know so we have to stay focused.”
Nine-time winners France have won all three of their previous meetings with Japan, the last of those in 1981.
Noah, a Davis Cup runner-up in 1982, wore the look of a confident man fully expecting his doubles pair to swiftly deliver the coup de grace.
“Two-zero, it was expected,” said the former French Open champion. “But the players did a good job meeting those expectations.
“We have trained well for the doubles,” he added. “Tactically and physically we have no problem. They are the top pair in the world so if they play their match, they must win.”
Japan’s best Davis Cup result was a runner-up finish in 1921. They returned to the World Group in 2011 after 26 years languishing at the regional level. — AFP