Davis Cup Finals: France edges Japan to begin title hunt

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Davis Cup Finals: France edges Japan to begin title hunt

The ten-time Davis Cup champions France is off to a winning start at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, beating Japan 2-1 in an entertaining tie, scoring the fifth triumph in as many encounters against the Asian squad. In the first rubber, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needed 58 minutes to dismiss Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-2, 6-1 in his 12th consecutive Davis Cup season, earning the 28th victory overall.

Tsonga fended off two break chances offered to Uchiyama and dominated on the return as well, delivering four breaks from five opportunities to control the pace all the time and march towards the finish line in less than an hour.

Barely losing a point on serve in the opener, Jo-Wilfried had the upper in every segment to deliver four powerful holds and breaks in games four and eight for a 6-2. Yasutaka couldn't do much to draw the rival away from the comfort zone or at least stay in touch in his games, suffering breaks in games two and four in set number two before the Frenchman sealed the deal in the seventh game after fending off those two break chances.

In the second match, Yoshihito Nishioka stunned Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-2 in 66 minutes to level the score at 1-1 and earn only the second top-10 victory in a career. The Japanese had to play against only one break point, securing two breaks on the other hand to cross the finish line in straight sets and keep his country in contention.

They traded breaks in the opening games, staying neck and neck until the closing stages when Nishioka shifted into a higher gear and claimed nine of the last 11 games thanks to breaks at 5-5 in the first set and two more in the second set for the fifth Davis Cup win.

In the deciding doubles clash, the ATP Finals champions Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert came from a set down to oust Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 in gruelling two hours and 40 minutes to propel France over the finish line.

The Japanese team scored only one break but they were there to fight, taking the opening set in the tie break and staying neck and neck with better-ranked opponents in the deciding set after pulling the break back in game ten.

Still, Mahut and Herbert clinched another break at 5-5, holding at 15 a few minutes later to earn the victory for France.