Captain's choice pays off as France lead Czech 2-0

Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:19pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Richard Gasquet justified France captain Arnaud Clement's faith with a crushing defeat of Czech Tomas Berdych as the hosts made a flying start in their bid to reach the Davis Cup final for the first time since 2010 on Friday.

Gasquet, preferred to Gael Monfils for the second singles berth, played some sublime tennis to subdue the world number six 6-3 6-2 6-3 at a sun-baked Roland Garros before Jo-Wilfried Tsonga thrashed Lukas Rosol 6-2 6-2 6-3 to give Les Bleus a commanding 2-0 semi-final lead against the champions.

The winner of the tie will meet either Switzerland or Italy in the final.

Berdych, who was playing his U.S. Open quarter-final eight days ago when Gasquet, ranked 21st in the world, was starting his clay court training at Roland Garros, was never in contention against the inspired Gasquet.

In-form Monfils also reached the U.S. Open quarter-finals last week after crushing Gasquet in the third round.

"I knew quite early, on Monday or Tuesday, that I would be playing. Gael was quite tired," Gasquet told a news conference.

"I played a solid match. It was important to take the first set. I broke at the right time in all three sets.

"I knew I had the game to unsettle him on clay."   Continued...

French tennis player Richard Gasquet celebrates after defeating Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych in the opening match of their Davis Cup semi-final at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris September 12, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau