France, winner and runner-up in the last two Davis Cup finals under the “old” regime of five-set matches, got past Japan missing injured Kei Nishikori on Tuesday 2-1.
The world champion doubles pair of Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, winners of the title 48 hours earlier at the ATP Finals in London, continued their victory act in Madrid at the reduced and re-written Davis Cup event.
The French pair stopped Ben McLachlan and Akinori Uchiumi 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5; the victory combined that the singles success of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6-2, 6-1 over Uchiumi).
Gael Monfils was upset in the second singles, losing to Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5, 6-2.
Nishikori has not played since the US Open and his presence was missed in Madrid by his team.
Monfils suffered with more than 40 unforced errors in his surprise loss.
“Today I used my best tennis,” the Japanese winner said. “I was believing I had a chance here, and if I played my best tennis I could win today.
“Kei is not here, but I wanted to show to the whole world Japan are still strong.
“Even when he’s not here we can play. I think today I did that, and hopefully.”
Tsonga kick-started French success in the opening singles as he allowed just three games to his outclassed opponent Uchiyama.
Tsonga, 34, now stand within one victory of reaching the group of the country’s 10 most successful Davis Cup competitors of all time.
“It was very important for our team to start well,” Tsonga, ranked 29th as he returns form 2019 jnee surgery, said.
“I’m happy about my game, what I did today, so I hope it continues like this.”
Diego Schwartzman and Guido Pella combined for a pair of singles wins to give Argentina the 2-0 lead over South American rival Chile.
The 14th-ranked Schwartzman,runner-up last month to Dominic Thiem at the Vienna tournament, produced some of his best tennis to secure the untouchable margin in group play.
The Latin pocket rocket called his effort “one of the best matches for sure of the year, maybe in my career,” as he defeated Chilean No.1 Cristian Garin 6-2, 6-2 in 73 minutes.
The Argentine won 12 of the first 13 points to set the tone for the afternoon.
“It’s the end of the season but I think I played one of the best matches for sure of the year, maybe in my career,” the winner said.
The success came after teammate Pella had defeated Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 6-3, with the Chilean falling victim to 39 unforced errors
“Guido helped me a lot to be more confident in this match and I played unreal tennis,” Schwartzman said.
“I was leading 5-0 both sets, but I played good, so I’m really happy. ”
Pella, ranked 25th on the ATP, called his win “unbelievable because it was a very tough match for me,
“I was very nervous the entire match; Madrid is a difficult city if you’re nervous because there’s a little bit of altitude.
“I was struggling a bit but I fought for every ball and that was the key to get the win.” .
The South American nations were facing off for the 18th time in Davis Cup, with Argentina standing 9-8 in the historical table.
Chilean captain Nicolas Massu arrived late from London, where he coached Thiem into the Sunday title match at the ATP Finals. Former player Gaston Gaudio – a rival of Massu’s in their days on the Tour, is serving as Argentine captain.
Maximo Gonzalez and Leonardo Mayer finished off a 3-0 Argentine victory with a doubles win.
Kazakhstan squeezed out a victory in the deciding doubles to clinch the tie with the Netherlands as Mikhail Kukushkin and Alexander Bublik beat Robin Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6(2) to wrap up afternoon play.
Haase, the top-ranked Dutchman, had levelled the tie at 1-1 with a win over Bublik 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5) after Kukushkin had accounted for Botic Van De Vanschulp 6-2, 6-2.
Haase, his ranking down to 163 as he sealed victory with an ace, beating an opponent ranked 110 place higher, taking just over two hours to save his side’s chances.
Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur combined to give Australia 2-0 win over Colombia in the Davis Cup opener for the side which has won the Davis Cup 28 times.
Kyrgios, who is back in the good graces of captain Lleyton Hewitt, hammered 16 aces in a one-way rout lasting for 73 minutes as he beat 468th-ranked Alejandro Gonzalez 6-4, 6-4.
The untried substitute replaced Santiago Giraldo, resting after a Monday loss in singles against Belgium.
Kyrgios was playing his first match for Australia in nearly two years after falling out with Hewitt due to his notorious reputation as the bad boy of the sport.
“It’s a new format so it’s a lot different, but he was a tough competitor,” Kyrgios said of the reduced format competition shrunk from four times per year to an 18-team shootout being played this week in Madrid.
“I’m just pleased I got the win.”
De Minaur gave Australian the unbeatable 2-0 as he dominated Daniel Galan, part of the side that lost here on opening day to Belgium.
De Minaur won in just under 90 minutes,breaking five times while losing his own serve just once.
The 32-times champion US, whose only player ranked in the top 20 (No. 19 John Isner) is not playing, was humbled with a 2-0 result by burgeoning North American tennis powerhouse Canada.
Experienced Vasek Pospisil finished off Reilly Opelka 7-6(5), 7-6(7) in an our and three-quarters despite 28 aces from the young US giant standing more than two metres.
A total of five break points were saved in the tightly balanced contest.
Paris Bercy finalist Denis Shapovalov dominated American Taylor Fritz 7-6(6), 6-3.
Canada became the first team into the quarter-finals after winning two ties in as many days.
“It’s amazing, honestly it’s just such an honour to play for my country, represent it. I think the whole team is putting such an amazing effort. The fans are spectacular, it’s not just me, it’s the whole team and everyone around us,” Shapovalov said.
“I feel like I’m in really good shape and of course the confidence is high, especially beating Matteo (Berrettini) yesterday shows again that my game is there, so in those tough moments, in those tough holds, I was able to play some amazing points, so hopefully that can continue.”
In the Spain – Russia tie, Andrey Rublev stopped Roberto Bautista Agut in the first rubber 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6).
But Rafael Nadal brought the day level at one win each with his 6-3, 7-6(7) win over Karen Khachanov which took two hours, 11 minutes.