France pull ahead
After the first dayÈs play in this Davis Cup World Group Quarter Final France deservedly leads Great Britain by two rubbers to love.
There's always a way back. It would be wrong to say we've lost
There was a strange air of uncertainty ahead of the two oÈclock local time start, with neither set of fans quite sure what to expect given the absence of their star players. It may well be that the opening rubber between French No.1 Lucas Pouille and British No.2 Kyle Edmund will decide the outcome of the whole tie, for one felt that for the visitors to have any chance of pulling off a shock victory Edmund would need to win both his singles matches.
As it turned out, PouilleÈs 7-5 7-6(6) 6-3 win fairly reflected the margin of difference between the two men. On serve and from the baseline they were even, but PouilleÈs stronger backhand and greater tactical nous were the deciding factors. There is less than a yearÈs age difference between the two, but the Frenchman is a far more mature match player as his current world ranking of No.15 suggests. His clever use of the dropshot was the deciding factor in the last two sets, but Edmund played well enough to suggest that he can overcome French No.2 Jeremy Chardy in SundayÈs reverse singles.
Chardy had little trouble overcoming British No.1 Dan Evans today, running out a comfortable 6-2 6-3 6-3 winner in under two hours. The British player has a well-known disliking of clay courts, but there was enough good work from him to suggest that he could adapt to the surface if he really put his mind to it.
The atmosphere in the Kindarena was strangely muted at times, and there were a few empty seats where French fans had obviously decided the absence of stars like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet made a day in the glorious sunshine outside the more attractive option.
Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot must now win SaturdayÈs doubles rubber to keep Great BritainÈs slim hopes alive, but Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau will provide stiff opposition.
Despte the setbacks, team captain Leon Smith remained positive: "Obviously it’s tough losing two rubbers but it was always going to be a difficult match on clay. We’ve had lots of good days and these ones don’t feel as good. It’s pretty normal.
"There’s always a way back. It would be wrong to say we’ve lost. That’s not the mentality we’ve built up over the years.
"You’ve got to try and fight for everything and hopefully Jamie and Dom can cause an upset and we can at least take it into the final day and give ourselves a chance to fight again."