France are in firm control of their Davis Cup World Group quarterfinal tie against Great Britain after wining both opening singles rubbers on day one to take a 2-0 lead in Rouen.
* Article originally published by me for UBITennis.net *
Lucas Pouille got France off to the perfect start with a straight sets win over Kyle Edmund 7-5, 7-6(6), 6-2. Both players shared breaks early on in the match before the Frenchman capitalised late on to take the first set. Edmund battled back from a break down in the second set to force a tiebreak and had a commanding 5-2 lead. The world number 17 then attempted an audacious drop shot which clipped the top of the net and went over, had it landed back on the Frenchman’s side he would have been facing four set points against him. Pouille capitalised on that good fortune, reeling off four points in a row to get to set point, the Brit saved the first but could not prevent his opponent from taking a two set lead. With such fine margins separating the two players in the opening two sets, Pouille then took control in the third and put France 1-0 up in the tie.
Jeremy Chardy produced an even more impressive performance as he took full advantage of Dan Evans lack of recent matches on clay, defeating the Brit 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. The Frenchman received a late call up to replace Gilles Simon and justified his selection, racing into a 5-0 lead. Evans managed to hang with Chardy, who was playing his first Davis Cup tie in six years, early on in the second set but not for anywhere near long enough. The Frenchman cruised through his service games and wrapped up both sets two and three with a 6-3 score line to put France 2-0 up.
Pouille Defeats Edmund 7-5, 7-6(6), 6-2
Pouille got the home side off to the perfect start after securing an early break. A double fault from the Brit handed the world number 17 two break points and the Frenchman capitalised on the second with a backhand down the line winner. In the following game the French number one for the tie threw in a poor service game, producing unforced errors to hand the break straight back.
After a series of service holds Edmund came under pressure in the eleventh game as he faced a couple of break points. The Brit hung tough and fired down two aces to keep him in the game but frustratingly fired an attempted forehand cross court winner just wide to relinquish serve. After securing a crucial break, Pouille took full advantage and closed out the set after Edmund’s rallying shot went just long, sealing the set for France 7-5.
Pouille went from strength to strength at the start of the second set, breaking immediately with a forehand down the line winner to take a 1-0 lead. Edmund came under further pressure in the seventh game at 30-30 and deuce on serve but the Brit held on to ask the question of the world number 17.
Surviving in that game proved to a turning point in the Brit’s favour as Edmund broke back following some nervy looking unforced errors from Pouille. After back to back service holds the players found themselves in a tiebreak. A double fault from the Frenchman handed the world number 47 the first mini break. Edmund took full advantage and quickly moved into a 5-2 lead. The tides then turned and the Frenchman reeled off four points in a row to move to set point. The Brit could not deny Pouille on a second occasion as he took a two sets to love lead, winning the tiebreak 7-6(6).
Edmund had two opportunities to break the world number 17’s serve in the fifth game, but both chances past him by. After failing to capitalise the Brit quickly found himself 0-40 down in the next game and despite saving two chances the world number 47 dropped serve. That proved to be the British number three’s last stand as Pouille closed out the set and match 7-5, 7-6(6), 6-2.
Chardy Defeats Evans 7-2, 6-3, 6-3
Chardy followed in his compatriot’s footsteps and made a fast start, breaking immediately and moving 3-0 in front. The fourth game was a real battle as Evans battled to keep his hopes in the set alive. In a game lasting over nine minutes, both players had chances, but it was the Frenchman who came away with the break on his third opportunity after the Brit continued to make unforced errors and he quickly found himself 5-0 down.
Evans got a game on the board in his next service game and managed to pull one of the breaks back, taking his third opportunity. Those couple of games in a row from the world number 44 proved to be a temporary momentum switch as Chardy swiftly moved to set point on Evan’s serve. The Frenchman closed out the set with a backhand return of serve cross court winner.
The second set started out as a close affair, with both players holding their opening two service games. Evans then produced a service game to forget, quickly falling 0-40 down as he struggled to execute his slices effectively enough. Chardy secured the break and went on to secure a two sets to love lead, holding serve, finishing with a inside out forehand cross court winner.
Chardy gained another early break of serve at the start of the third set and victory for the Frenchman looked inevitable as Evans looked to be struggling for ideas out on court, falling 0-40 behind on serve in the fifth game. The Brit did not have too much to shout about throughout the match but he was able to recover in that game and win five points in a row to close the gap to 3-2.
Evans, playing his first competitive match on clay in two years, managed to stave off break points in his following service game but could not make any inroads on Chardy’s serve. The Frenchman produced a flawless performance from start to finish as he secured the straight sets victory 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, justifying his late call up by captain Yannick Noah.
France are certainly in the driving seat in the tie, but there is still a long way to go to decide the outcome of this Davis Cup quarterfinal as the teams prepare for the doubles rubber on Saturday.