Paris: French No. 1 Sebastien Grosjean destroyed Russia’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 to leave the Davis Cup final poised at 1-1 after the opening singles on Friday.
Russian No. 1 Marat Safin drew on his greater experience of the big occasion to beat Cup debutant Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the first match of the final as a gamble by the champion’s captain Guy Forget went badly wrong.
Grosjean, ranked 16 in the world, sent the 14,000 French fans in the Bercy stadium into delirium with a superbly athletic display against the 28-year-old Kafelnikov.
The former World No. 1, who has vowed to retire if he can lead Russia to their first Davis Cup title, was a broken man in the third set and was left flat-footed on the baseline as Grosjean blazed shots past him from every angle.
“I wouldn’t have liked to end the day 2-0 down,“ said Forget.
“I am full of confidence, I saw some good things today. Tomorrow will be crucial.”
Safin, World No. 3 doused the exuberant shot-making of his 20-year-old opponent with superior placement and coolness under pressure.
Mathieu had beaten Safin in their only previous encounter in Moscow last month. He hit a hot streak of form in the second set of this match but his first serve was rarely a threat and Safin was far more calculated on the big points.
The match was watched by former Russian president Boris Yeltsin and French President Jacques Chirac, celebrating his 70th birthday.