France, Czech Republic tied 1-1
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Radek Stepanek 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (1) Friday, allowing France to tie the Czech Republic 1-1 after the opening singles of Davis Cup competition.
Tomas Berdych upset Gilles Simon 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 in the opener on indoor carpet at CEZ Arena.
In Saturday’s doubles, Jan Hernych and Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic will take on Richard Gasquet and Michael Llodra.
Tsonga and Stepanek have each won two ATP Tour titles this year.
“It’s great we have a point,” Stepanek said. “The tie is still open.”
The winner of the best-of-five series will advance to the quarterfinals July 10-12 against Argentina or the Netherlands. The losing team will be relegated to the playoffs.
Argentina sweeps opening singles
At Buenos Aires, Argentina overcame the absence of its three highest-ranked players to take a 2-0 lead over the Netherlands on Friday.
In front of a sparse crowd at the Parque Roca arena, Juan Ignacio Chela beat Jesse Huta Galung 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-7, 6-2 in just under four hours to give Argentina the early lead.
Juan Monaco, making his appearance since the 2006 final against Russia, then brushed aside Thiemo De Bakker 6-1, 6-2, 7-6, in 2 hours, 11 minutes.
Argentina, runners-up twice in the last three years, were without any of the players who lost at home to Spain in last year’s final, while captain Modesto Vazquez was making his debut after replacing Alberto Mancini.
David Nalbandian withdrew with a viral infection on Tuesday while Juan Martin Del Potro, Argentina’s top-ranked player, and Jose Acasuso were left out by mutual consent and Agustin Calleri was not picked.
Sweden, Israel tied 1-1
At Malmo, Sweden, in a stadium without spectators, Dudi Sela outlasted Andreas Vinciguerra 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 11-9 to pull Israel even with Sweden.
The match was played without fans because of Swedish organizers’ fears of demonstrations and protests against Israel due to the recent offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Only a few dozen guests were allowed inside the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall arena. Applause echoed amid rows of empty chairs, in sharp contrast to the normally raucous atmosphere at Davis Cup matches.
The loudest cheers came from a handful of Israel fans from London, who found a way around the ban.
“We managed to get invited as special guests of the Israeli team,” said Jonathan Stoller, 26. “We didn’t want to come all the way to Malmo without watching tennis.”
Sela said it was disappointing to play before rows of empty seats in the desolate arena, but added: “It was nice that there were some supporters at least.”
Thomas Johansson returned from injury to beat Harel Levy 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 in the opening match.
Johansson had been sidelined since October because of a foot injury, and his lack of practice showed. He had 65 unforced errors — 20 in the first set.
Russia leads Romania
At Sibiu, Romania, Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny won their singles matches Friday to give Russia a 2-0 lead.
Safin defeated Victor Crivoi 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in the opening singles match and Youzhny extended Russia’s lead by beating Victor Hanescu 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
It was Romania’s first Davis Cup match under new captain Andrei Pavel.
Russia won the Davis Cup in 2006, then lost the final to the United States the next year. Romania, which reached the Davis Cup final in 1969, 1971 and 1972, has never won the tournament.
Croatia sweeps Chile
At Prec, Croatia, Mario Ancic and Marin Cilic gave Croatia took a 2-0 lead on Friday.
Ancic defeated Nicolas Massu 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (4), and Cilic cruised past Paul Capdeville 6-1, 6-2, 6-1.
Massu became Chile’s top player after Fernando Gonzalez withdrew because of injury.