LONDON (Reuters) - Hoping for a sporting clean sweep, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga carried the French flag into the Wimbledon second round with straight-sets wins over Britain’s Aljaz Bedene and Spain’s Inigo Cervantes on Tuesday.
Seventh seed Gasquet used his trademark backhand to good effect to see off the British number two 6-3 6-4 6-3, although both players pulled off strokes that were at times things of beauty during their baseline rallies.
Tsonga, back in action for the first time after retiring from the French Open with a groin injury, shook off the cobwebs of a close first few games to beat the Spaniard, ranked 75th in the world, 6-4 7-6(5) 6-4.
France started the tournament with 16 men in singles action, the most of any country and an Open Era record.
With the men’s final at Wimbledon and the climax of soccer’s European Championship in Paris both on July 10, the French will be hoping to scoop all the sporting silverware a week on Sunday.
Gasquet lost in the semi-finals last year to eventual winner Novak Djokovic, after also reaching the last four in 2007.
He edged out Bedene, ranked 56th and coming off the back of reaching the third round at Roland Garros, in all areas of the match, before closing it out with a backhand crosscourt volley.
“It’s a close match because he’s playing very good from the baseline. He’s a very dangerous player, has a good serve. To win in three sets, it’s a good match for me,” Gasquet told reporters.
Moving well around the baseline and into the net, 12th seed Tsonga, also twice a Wimbledon semi-finalist, showed no sign of the injury that forced him out of his home tournament in tears and made him withdraw from the Queen’s warm-up event.
“It’s good to be back on court after this month out. It was not easy, of course, on the court because when you didn’t play for a while, you always looking for the good shot,” he told reporters, adding that he was 100 percent fit.
France face minnows Iceland in the last eight of Euro 2016 on Sunday and both players are following the soccer closely.
“It’s always dangerous to play a team like this because they have nothing to lose. For sure they will be dangerous,” Tsonga said of Iceland, who humiliated England on Monday.
Gasquet agreed on the danger, but said of France: “I think they can win the title this year.”
Among the other Frenchmen gunning for a deep run on the grass, Jeremy Chardy overcame crowd pleaser Gael Monfils in a five-set epic on Monday.
Nicolas Mahut beat British wildcard Brydan Klein in straight sets, Gilles Simon defeated Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic in four and 26th seed Benoit Paire overcame Croatian qualifier Franko Skugor in a marathon five-setter.
Editing by Ed Osmond