(AFP) - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ousted Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets to put hosts France closer to a berth in the Davis Cup quarter-finals with a 2-0 lead against Australia on Friday.
Richard Gasquet had given France the first point of the best-of-five tie when he saw off teenager Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (7/3), 6-2, 6-2 with Tsonga then stepping up to crush Hewitt 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/2) at Mouilleron-le-Captif in western France.
World number ten Tsonga had defeated Hewitt, ranked 41, in all their three previous ties and won through in one hour and 51 minutes to give Arnaud Clement's men the chance to finish off the tie in the doubles on Saturday.
Tsonga dominated the first two sets but Hewitt, the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon champion, fought back in the third before the 32-year-old fell in the tie-break.
"It was the perfect match. I was walking on water for two sets," said Tsonga.
"Lleyton came back well but then got overwhelemed by little faults. Luckily I never underestimated Lleyton who is a fighter. I knew that he would fight to the final ball." "He was too strong. It was as simple as that," said Hewitt.
"He served very well and hit hard from the baseline. Any little chance I had of breaking he quickly snuffed out. It's going to be tough tomorrow (Saturday) in the doubles but we're going to do everything to stay on course for a third day." Earlier Gasquet held off the 18-year-old Kyrgios in straight sets in just over two hours.
"I knew that the first set was really important. I had to win it," said Gasquet.
"Once I did I gained in confidence. If he (Kyrgios) had won the first set it would have been a different match. "He's (Kyrgios) a player with a big serve who already has a lot of talent. I was favourite today but he's still young. I think he has a huge future." Kyrgios began to show signs of fatigue in the first set tie-break with the loss of six consecutive points despite leading 3-1. Gasquet's confidence grew thereafter and he rolled off six straight games at love on serve.
The final set was a copy of the second with a double break in favour of France and a string of unforced errors off the Kyrgios racquet.
"I played very good tennis in the first set and tried to put Richard under pressure," said Kyrgios.
"But he played incredibly well. I had my chance by leading 3-1 in the tie-break but he managed to win the first set. After that he grew in confidence and played better and better. I couldn't have done more against him in the other two sets. He was just better than me today." Australia captain Patrick Rafter praised Kyrgios' fighting spirit.
"Nick (Kyrgios) showed promise in the first set against Richard Gasquet.
But his game didn't allow him to maintain this very high level in the two other sets," said Rafter. "But it was a very good experience for him to play against a world number nine." Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau are now scheduled to team up for Saturday's doubles rubber against former world number one Hewitt and Chris Guccione.
But France captain Clement hinted the nine-time champions might change the line-up.
"After this first day all options are open to me for tomorrow's doubles," he said.
France beat Australia in their last meeting in 2001 when the French won the title in Melbourne.
Australia have won the trophy 28 times and last in 2003.