Rouen: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet won their opening singles in contrasting fashion Friday to give France a 2-0 lead against Israel in the first round of the Davis Cup. While the eighth-ranked Tsonga had to overcome a sloppy third set to beat Amir Weintraub 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, Gasquet followed up with a far more convincing 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win against Dudi Sela.
"It went well today, it wasn't easy as people thought it might be. They're both very good players," France captain Arnaud Clement said. "We're very happy. Richard played very well in the second match." Tsonga seemed to be cruising until his shot-making fell apart in the third set, where he made 13 unforced errors as Weintraub broke him twice to get back into the match. Tsonga looked increasingly nervous in the fourth set but was given several reprieves as Weintraub made numerous errors when he went for winners.
Tsonga retrieved two big forehands and earned a match point when Weintraub missed an easy smash, and closed out the victory when the Israeli returned into the net. "I did the essential. I wasn't really scared," Tsonga said, adding that the indoor hardcourt was quicker than he expected. "We're not really used to surfaces like that. I won, that's the most important thing."
The first match was interrupted for about a minute by a handful of fans shouting as Weintraub was serving midway through the second, but it was not clear what the commotion was about. The Israeli's strong backhand helped him earn his first break to lead 2-1 in the third and took charge as Tsonga started playing loose shots all over the court. Weintraub picked him off with a superb backhand down the line to move 5-2 up.
"He took his chance, you have to give him a bit of credit," Tsonga said. "It's not always my fault when I lose my serve. It's down to my opponent as well." Tsonga broke back for 5-3 and held to love for 5-4 to pressure Weintraub, ranked 173rd, but he held firm on his next service game to pull a setback.
Gasquet started shakily and trailed 2-0 after dropping serve, but won the next five games on his way to clinching the set in 31 minutes. The 10th-ranked Gasquet's touch was too good for his opponent, as demonstrated by a brilliant backhand volley down the line at full speed late in the second set. A sublime backhand from the back of the court down the line enabled Gasquet to break Sela and lead 3-2 in the third set.
Gasquet broke Sela again for the sixth time in the match when he sprinted to the net and retrieved a drop shot with a whipped backhand for a 5-2 lead, and clinched the match with his ninth ace. France can clinch their spot in the quarterfinals if Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra win their doubles against Jonathan Erlich and Sela on Saturday.
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