Underdogs Great Britain face a major uphill battle in their quest to reach the semi-finals of the Davis Cup for the third successive year after closing day one of their last-eight tie against France with a 2-0 deficit following defeats suffered by Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans in the opening singles rubbers.
With GB talisman Andy Murray ruled of the 2015 quarter-final rematch due to an elbow injury, Edmund opened the tie on Friday afternoon (7 April) against Lucas Pouille at Rouen's indoor Kindarena looking to repeat his clay-court heroics from last summer when Janko Tipsarevic and Dusan Lajovic were both bested during a rousing quarter-final victory over Serbia in Belgrade.
Edmunbd initially fought valiantly against the world number 17, but failed to capitalise on a 5-4 lead in the first set. Edmund then frittered away a 5-2 advantage in a second-set tiebreak and eventually fell 7-5, 7-6, 6-3 to heap the pressure on Evans, who had not played on clay for nearly three years and has never played an ATP tour event on his least favourite surface.
The Birmingham right-hander's lack of confidence quickly bore fruit, with surprise pick Jeremy Chardy, chosen ahead of Gilles Simon by France captain Yannick Noah with Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all unavailable, cruising to an early 5-0 lead and taking the first set in less than 40 minutes.
Evans' frustrations were evident after he conceded the second set in equally limp fashion and the writing was very much on the wall following another break at the beginning of the third. Chardy, who has not played Davis Cup tennis since 2010, wrapped up an emphatic 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 victory in a time of one hour and 50 minutes.
"Obviously Kyle Edmund started well but Lucas Pouille did a good job in getting back into the first set," GB skipper Leon Smith told the BBC. "Second set, I thought Edmund did well to get the lead in the tie-break and could have played slightly more aggressively. He then got disheartened in the third set.
"Dan fights with everything he's got. He loves playing for his country. But he needs more time on the clay. Jeremy Chardy was too good for him today. We probably needed the win from Kyle to get us started this weekend. And we will now have to do it the extremely difficult way."
Much now rests on Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot to triumph in Saturday's doubles rubber and take the tie to the final day. They are scheduled to face experienced duo Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau, with Pierre-Hugues Herbert currently out injured. GB have not suffered a Davis Cup whitewash for eight years.
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