Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer comprehensively outplayed Juergen Melzer and Andreas Haider-Maurer in the opening singles as holders Spain raced into a 2-0 lead at home to underdogs Austria in their Davis Cup quarter-final.
As the four World Group ties got under way, including France against the U.S., Czech Republic against Serbia and Argentina against Croatia, Almagro thumped Melzer 6-2 6-2 6-4 and Ferrer thrashed Haider-Maurer 6-1 6-3 6-1 to put the hosts in command on the clay in a blustery Marina d’Or on the Spanish coast.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, leading the French charge against the Americans in Monte Carlo, put the 2010 finalists 1-0 ahead when he dispatched teenager Ryan Harrison 7-5 6-2 2-6 6-2, while Tomas Berdych secured the advantage for the Czechs with a 6-2 6-1 6-2 success against Serbia’s Viktor Troicki in Prague.
Clay kings Spain, who have won their last 22 home Davis Cup ties and are bidding for a fourth title in five years, appear to have far too much quality for Austria despite the absence of world number two Rafa Nadal.
The French Open champion has opted not to play in the competition in an Olympic year, citing the packed calendar, and is also carrying a knee injury aggravated last week in Miami.
Almagro and Ferrer ensured he probably will not be missed too much as they put Spain on the verge of a September semi-final against France or United States.
“That was possibly my best match in Davis Cup,” Almagro said in an interview with Spanish television.
“I knew that I was going to be nervous and I was tense at the start and so were the first three or four games,” added the world number 12. “But I threw off the shackles and then the tennis started to flow.”
Ferrer said his match had been a lot easier than he expected.
“He (Haider-Maurer) made a lot of mistakes and I was able to play my game without ever really getting into a rhythm,” the world number five told Spanish TV.
“Let’s hope we can wrap things up tomorrow (in the doubles) but it’s going to be a tricky match.”
Spain captain Alex Corretja said he could have to deploy Almagro or Ferrer to partner Marcel Granollers on Saturday as Marc Lopez was carrying a back injury and may not be able to play.
There was a party atmosphere at the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires for David Nalbandian’s opening singles against Marin Cilic as Argentina seek to make up for the disappointment of losing to Spain in the 2011 and 2008 finals.
Juan Martin Del Potro will take on Croatia’s big-serving Ivo Karlovic in the second singles on the clay.
Gilles Simon was due to play John Isner in the second singles in Monte Carlo, while Radek Stepanek will look to put the Czechs 2-0 ahead against Serbia, missing world number one Novak Djokovic, when he plays Janko Tipsarevic.