By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Holders France ran into a spot of bother as they split the opening day’s singles matches to finish locked at 1-1 with Netherlands in the first round of their Davis Cup World Group tie after being hit by injuries on Friday. French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had been ruled out of the tie with a knee problem and Lucas Pouille, who was scheduled to play the first singles rubber, pulled out injured on Friday.
That meant world number 25 Adrian Mannarino had to step in at the 11th hour and he ended up being outclassed 7-6(4) 6-3 6-3 by world number 369 Thiemo De Bakker.
Richard Gasquet drew France level with a 6-4 7-6(3) 3-6 7-5 win against Robin Haase. Pouille, who gave France the winning point against Belgium in the 2017 final last November, pulled out suffering from a stiff neck. “Gasquet was solid. He went for the points, especially near the end of the game. It’s a good sign for the team,” said France captain Yannick Noah. Noah said he was not sure Pouille would be able to play on Sunday. “I hope he can play but the medical staff will need to work miracles,” added Noah. Belgium got off to a commanding start in Liege against Hungary as Ruben Bemelmans and David Goffin won the opening singles. Switzerland, without 20-times grand slam champion Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, were 2-0 down against Kazakhstan in Astana. Britain, without the services of Andy Murray who led them to the title in 2015, were surprisingly tied at 1-1 with Spain. World number 114 Cameron Norrie upset Roberto Bautista Agut, 23rd in the ATP rankings, in a five-set thriller.
Serbia were on the brink of being eliminated after falling 2-0 behind against the United States. Sam Querrey and John Isner won their singles against Laslo Djere and Dusan Lajovic respectively. Alexander Zverev needed five sets to tame unheralded Alex de Minaur to give Germany 1-0 lead against Australia before Nick Kyrgios overwhelmed Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets to level the tie in Brisbane.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Pritha Sarkar)