Friday, September 12, 2014
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Captain's choice pays off as Gasquet gives France early lead

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[September 12, 2014]  By Julien Pretot
 PARIS (Reuters) - Richard Gasquet justified France captain Arnaud Clement's faith with a crushing defeat of Czech Tomas Berdych to give the hosts a flying start in the Davis Cup semi-final on Friday.

Gasquet, preferred to Gael Monfils for the second singles berth, played some sublime tennis to subdue the world No.6 6-3 6-2 6-3 at a sun-baked Roland Garros.

Berdych, who was playing his U.S. Open quarter-final eight days ago when Gasquet, ranked 21st in the world, was starting his claycourt 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.

The second singles match features French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against Lukas Rosol, who faces a daunting task to keep the holders, who are on a 11-0 winning streak, afloat.

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

In front of an almost sell-out crowd on court Philippe Chatrier, Gasquet opened up a 3-1 lead as Berdych failed to deal with the Frenchman's single-handed backhand assault.

Berdych looked lacking in energy as he made a string of unforced forehand errors that allowed Gasquet to easily bag the opening set with a stunning backhand winner down the line.

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Chest out and in complete control, Gasquet raced to a 3-0 lead in the second, only for Berdych to pull a break back and threaten a comeback.

The home favorite, cheered by a raucous crowd waving French flags, played tough and won the remaining three games.

Gasquet broke in the first game of the third set and although Berdych offered more resistance there was to be no meltdown for the Frenchman.

He sealed the match on his second match point when Berdych double-faulted.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by martyn herman)

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