Serbia and France ended the first day of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final on level terms following victories for both Gael Monfils and Novak Djokovic in the opening singles rubbers.
Monfils earned his country the first point of the tie after he swept Janko Tipsarevic to one side 61 76(4) 60.
It was a nervy start by Tipsarevic, who opened the match with two double faults, before allowing the first set to run away from him.
Monfils proved too strong
Asked about his nightmare first two points, he said: “This never happened to me in my life. Obviously, there was tension on the beginning, but I didn’t lose this match because I was tense. I lost because Gael Monfils was the better player than me today.”
Tipsarevic, who blamed his poor performance on a lack of match practice, clawed his way back into the match in the second set and even had chances to break Monfils, but the Frenchman proved too good on the day.
“I think the score maybe look easy,” said Monfils. “But I think it was still tough. I mean, I had to compete. I had to break him a bit in his game, in his mind.”
Monfils ensured the travelling French fans, who made themselves heard throughout the day, had plenty to cheer about by finishing off the match without the loss of a game in the final set.
Serbian fight back
The French didn’t have it all their way, however, as Serbia’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic made sure the two finalists finished the day with one point each.
The world No. 3 showed his class in a 63 61 75 victory in just under two-and-a-half hours.
Having won in straight sets, the Serbian could well be used in what will be a crucial doubles rubber tomorrow.
But he kept his cards close to his chest when asked if he would play saying: “Well, it’s open. We’ll discuss about that tonight and we’ll find the best possible solution and see, you know, what we are going do about that. Definitely we will try to get a win tomorrow.”
Djokovic also called on the crowd to make the difference between winning and losing.
“We just invite everybody to give us even better support tomorrow and on Sunday because we need that,” he said.
“This competition depends on crowd support and energy that the crowd gives to the player. That’s why this competition is very unpredictable and unique, especially at the later stages of the Davis Cup where you play top players.”
There’s no doubt that both sides are desperate to win tomorrow’s doubles rubber as neither want to hand any advantage to their opponents going into the final day.
“The doubles match will probably be crucial,” said French captain Guy Forget. “We’re going to do everything we can to win it tomorrow and try to play, once again, very consistent tennis.
“Arnaud [Clement] and Michael [Llodra], they’ve been playing together for many, many years. When they play well, they are very good. They’re one of the best doubles teams in the world.
“They’ve had some great success at Wimbledon. They won some very big matches, beating the Bryans in the US in Davis Cup. They’ve done well on a lot of occasions.”
Tomorrow’s doubles match starts at 15:00 (14:00 GMT). Make sure you follow all the action live on www.daviscup.com.