Tennis: France batter Japan in Davis Cup singles

TOKYO (AFP) - France took an early stranglehold on their Davis Cup first-round tie against Japan on Friday as Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon dominated the opening day's singles matches.

Gasquet swept past Taro Daniel 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 before Simon overpowered Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to put the visitors firmly in control of their Davis Cup clash.

"It was difficult today from the first point," insisted world No. 24 Simon, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. "I was moving good and hitting well but he wasn't giving any free points," he added after giving Yannick Noah's team a 2-0 lead. "Two wins in straight sets, nothing to complain about - but we have to stay ready in the doubles tomorrow."

World No. 18 Gasquet was gifted victory after two hours when Daniel coughed up a seventh double-fault of the match. "I'm in great shape. Today was a great match for me," purred Gasquet.

Japan never seriously posed a threat in the absence of world No.5 Kei Nishikori. The home side's hopes now hang by a thread and 2016 Wimbledon doubles champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut will look to complete the victory when they take on Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama in Saturday's doubles.

France have won all three of their previous Davis Cup meetings with Japan, the last of those coming at Roland Garros in 1981.