Andy Murray took just over 90 minutes to seal a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Japan's Taro Daniel on Friday, dismantling his opponent in swift fashion to get Great Britain's 2016 Davis Cup World Group campaign off to a bright start.
Daniel Evans couldn't follow team-mate Murray to victory later on Friday, though, as Kei Nishikori returned the favour for Japan by thumping his British opponent 6-3, 7-5, 7-6(3).
Novak Djokovic matched Murray's feat and was similarly domineering en route to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 victory against Kazakh contender Aleksandr Nedovyesov, as Serbia also came out of the blocks firing.
Australia and the USA are level at 1-1 after opening the first round earlier in the day. John Isner beat Samuel Groth in straight sets in the first rubber, before Bernard Tomic equalised with a four-set triumph over Jack Sock.
Croatia and Belgium shared the first-round spoils on Friday, where Marin Cilic defeated Kimmer Coppejans in straight sets before David Goffin returned the favour by topping a five-set thriller against Borna Coric.
Here are all the results from Friday and the upcoming Round 1 schedule:
|Australia 1-1 USA|
|John Isner bt. Samuel Groth||7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-2|
|Bernard Tomic bt. Jack Sock||7-6 (2), 6-3, 3-6, 6-4|
|Great Britain 1-1 Japan|
|Andy Murray bt. Taro Daniel||6-1, 6-3, 6-1|
|Kei Nishikori bt. Daniel Evans||6-3, 7-5, 7-6(3)|
|Serbia 1-1 Kazakhstan|
|Novak Djokovic bt. Aleksandr Nedovyesov||6-1, 6-2, 6-3|
|Mikhail Kukushkin bt. Victor Troicki||7-5, 6-2, 6-4|
|Italy 2-0 Switzerland|
|Paolo Lorenzi bt. Marco Chiudinelli||7-6(14), 6-3, 4-6, 5-7, 7-5|
|Andreas Seppi vs. Henri Laaksonen||7-5, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3|
|Poland 0-2 Argentina|
|Guido Pella bt. Michal Przysiezny||6-1, 6-4, 7-6(5)|
|Leonardo Mayer bt. Hubert Hurkacz||6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2|
|France 2-0 Canada|
|Gael Monfils bt. Frank Dancevic||6-3, 6-1, 6-3|
|Gilles Simon bt. Vasek Pospisil||7-5, 6-3, 6-3|
|Germany 1-1 Czech Republic|
|Philipp Kohlschreiber bt. Lukas Rosol||3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3|
|Tomas Berdych bt. Sascha Zverev||7-6(6), 1-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4|
|Belgium 1-1 Croatia|
|Marin Cilic bt. Kimmer Coppejans||7-5, 6-3, 7-5|
|David Goffin bt. Borna Coric||6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6, 6-3|
|Australia vs. USA||Samuel Groth/John Peers vs. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan|
|Bernard Tomic vs. John Isner|
|Samuel Groth vs. Jack Sock|
|Great Britain vs. Japan||Dominic Inglot/Jamie Murray vs. Yoshihito Nishioka/Yasutaka Uchiyama|
|Andy Murray vs. Kei Nishikori|
|Daniel Evans vs. Taro Daniel|
|Serbia vs. Kazakhstan||Novak Djokovic/Nenad Zimonjic vs. Andrey Golubev/Aleksandr Nedovyesov|
|Novak Djokovic vs. Mikhail Kukushkin|
|Viktor Troicki vs. Aleksandr Nedovyesov|
|Italy vs. Switzerland||Simone Bolelli/Marco Cecchinato vs. Marco Chiudinelli/Henri Laaksonen|
|Andres Seppi vs. Marco Chiudinelli|
|Paolo Lorenzi vs. Henri Laaksonen|
|Poland vs. Argentina||Lukasz Kubot/Marcin Matkowski vs. Carlos Berlocq/Renzo Olivo|
|Michal Przysiezny vs. Leonardo Mayer|
|Hubert Hurkacz vs. Guido Pella|
|France vs. Canada||Richard Gasquet/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Philip Bester/Vasek Pospisil|
|Gael Monfils vs. Vasek Pospisil|
|Gilles Simon vs. Frank Dancevic|
|Germany vs. Czech Republic||Dustin Brown/Philipp Petzschner vs. Radek Stepanek/Jiri Vesely|
|Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Tomas Berdych|
|Alexander Zverev vs. Lukas Rosol|
|Belgium vs. Croatia||Ruben Bemelmans/Arthur De Greef vs. Ivan Dodig/Franko Skugor|
|David Goffin vs. Marin Cilic|
|Kimmer Coppejans vs. Borna Coric|
Murray made his return to the court on Friday in what was his first appearance since finishing as runner-up to Djokovic at the Australian Open in January, marking his comeback with a most confident victory over Daniel.
The Scot swept his Japanese foe aside with relative ease, giving Great Britain a resounding boost in their efforts to make a successful title defence. Unselfishly, his thoughts were centred around team-mate Evans in the wake of his win, urging Britain to get behind its other representative, per tennis writer Chris Goldsmith:
Andy Murray on Dan Evans v Nishikori "It would be great if everyone can get behind him from the 1st ball to the last , he will love it"— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) March 4, 2016
Murray failed to drop a serve throughout the fixture, and the tighter second set provided the only slim lifeline of hope for Daniel, although his initial challenge eventually lost its legs.
The world No. 2 spoke positively of his serving statistics in particular, despite wavering mid-match, per the official ATP World Tour website: "The second set was tough—a lot of close games and some tough points, which was good for me. I was getting a little out of breath but I played a good match, served well, missed a few second serves but the first serve went extremely well, so it was a nice start."
Evans endeavoured to establish a 2-0 lead for the Brits, but his efforts fell short under the assault of world No. 6 Nishikori, who ran to a 6-3, 7-5, 7-6(3) victory in Birmingham, England.
It was far from an embarrassing defeat as far as Evans could be concerned, but Nishikori proved himself to be one step ahead in almost every regard. ESPN's Nicolas Atkins admired Evans' late comeback attempt in particular, showcasing a never-say-die attitude, albeit for nought in the end:
Nishikori just too good. Valiant effort from Evans, especially 3rd set, but goes down 6-3, 7-5, 7-6(3) in 2h44. GB 1-1 JPN #DavisCup— Nicolas Atkin (@natkinESPN) March 4, 2016
Great Britain stand to face Serbia in the next round should they advance, and Djokovic also fired up his tournament with a straight-sets win against Kazakhstan's Nedovyesov.
Christopher Clarey of the New York Times spoke of the Serb's "clear-eyed rout" and further illustrated Djokovic's unshakable form so far this year:
Djokovic with clear-eyed rout of Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-1 6-2 6-3 in Davis Cup -- has not lost a completed match in 2016— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) March 4, 2016
Nedovyesov actually won the first points in each of the second and third sets, but his stamina couldn't keep up with that of his foe, who eventually proved too strong to keep down for long.
Elsewhere, Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Czech combatant Lukas Rosol 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to give his nation a head-start in their bid to make the World Group quarter-finals.
Kohlschreiber came back after surrendering the first set to Rosol and topped a draining encounter, but even that drawn-out affair couldn't compare with the four-and-a-half-hour duel between Tomas Berdych and Sascha Zverev.
Berdych emerged as victor, triumphing 7-6(6), 1-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 after a mid-match lull that threatened to see him fall against his 18-year-old foe. ATP World Tour reporter Josh Meiseles pointed out the Czech giant's impressive record in five-set showdowns:
Tomas Berdych improves to 8-1 in (completed) Davis Cup five-setters, edging Sascha Zverev 76(8) 16 46 76(5) 64 in Hannover.— Josh Meiseles (@jmeistennis) March 4, 2016
Berdych's stamina eventually saw him thunder back from 2-1 down to pull the Czech Republic level against Germany in Hannover, setting up a tense atmosphere for the remainder of the weekend.
Gael Monfils was ruthless in his 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 defeat of Canadian Frank Dancevic and required just 85 minutes to give France an early lead in their Davis Cup quest, having dropped to eventual champions Great Britain last year.
The match saw some fierce exchanges between the pair at the net , but it was ultimately Monfils' quality from the baseline that saw him triumph, sealing his victory with a brilliant backhand down the line:
Gilles Simon completed France's 2-0 rout of Canada after he sailed past Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to put his country in a very strong position before Saturday sees Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga line up for the doubles.
The official Davis Cup Twitter account posted footage of Simon's decisive second-set winner, stroking a powerful forehand return that Pospisil was always struggling to reach:
Argentina booked a 2-0 lead of their own on Friday after Guido Pella and Leonardo Mayer defeated Michal Przyysiezny and Hubert Hurkacz, respectively.
Pella's performance simmered after a strong start as he eventually sealed a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(5) win over Przyysiezny, but Mayer wasn't so forgiving and trounced Poland's Hurkacz 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-2 in Gdansk.
Isner swept aside Groth as the Americans drew first blood in Kooyong, Melbourne, Australia.
The first set was the only one in which Groth was able to keep pace with his opponent, but even then Isner was showing he was up to the challenge in style.
In the fifth game, he fought back from 0-40 down to hold and prevent Groth from taking the advantage. He made full use of his serve in the seventh game to save another break point with a powerful ace, before starting and finishing the tiebreaker the same way and claiming it 7-2.
The 30-year-old went a break up in the opening game of the second set, and from there, the result was never in doubt, as he put in an assured performance to see out the match. Clarey highlighted his return game as a particular highlight of his showing:
Groth shaky but not sure I've seen Isner return & pass like this before. Compact and deadly. Up 2 sets and a break— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) March 4, 2016
Is this really John Isner? On return games, looks more like Andy Murray— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) March 4, 2016
Per the Davis Cup, he was rightly pleased with his performance and picked out his vital holds in the first set:
The Australians hit back immediately on home soil through Tomic. The 23-year-old claimed a hard-fought first set on a tiebreaker in 48 minutes.
Tomic quickly added a second, but Sock—who had a 3-0 record over his opponent heading into the clash—sparked hopes of a comeback as he took the third in a little over half an hour.
An excellent lob from Tomic and a double-fault from Sock helped the former head a break up in the opening set of the fourth, and from there, the Australian was able to serve out the match.
With the Bryan brothers set to contest the doubles on Saturday, the USA may well put their noses in front once again, but it'll be all to play for in the final singles rubbers.
Andreas Seppi capped off Friday's schedule when he sealed Italy's second victory of the day against Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen, where he emerged a 7-5, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3 winner.
That win came after compatriot Paolo Lorenzi defeated Marco Chiudinelli 7-6(14), 6-3, 4-6, 5-7, 7-5 earlier on Friday in a match that lasted close to five hours.
Italy and Argentina are on a quarter-final collision course after establishing 2-0 leads against respective opponents Switzerland and Poland, but Saturday's double drama could provide a lifeline for either trailing outfit.