|Novak Djokovic was always in control of world number 42 Gilles Simon [Reuters]
World number three Novak Djokovic fired a blistering 62 winners to defeat Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 on Friday and pull Serbia level at 1-1 after the opening day of the Davis Cup final against France.
Djokovic clinched his sixth singles win in six outings this year in the tournament as Serbia, backed by a noisy, passionate crowd at the Belgrade Arena kept their dream of a first Davis Cup title on track.
Gael Monfils had earlier handed nine-time champions France a 1-0 lead with a 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0 victory over Janko Tipsarevic.
Djokovic was always in control against Simon, the world number 42, who had been handed the second French singles berth in the absence of injured Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and wrapped up the rubber after two hours and 18 minutes on a fourth match point.
"It was really difficult. I had to stay in touch for as long as possible and there was a big game at 3-3 in the first set," Simon, who has now lost to Djokovic six times in seven meetings, said.
"He was playing really well, he made a lot of first serves and there weren't many unforced errors. I didn't get a lot of chances today."
However, Monfils, the French number one who is ranked 12th in the world, displayed none of the nerves he feared would emerge in the opening rubber of France's campaign for a 10th crown.
After several days of hype there was an expectant atmosphere in the 17,000-seat arena as folk dancers provided the pre-match entertainment and choirs of children sung the national anthems but it threatened to go flat as Tipsarevic imploded.
|Gael Monfils won easily after Janko Tipsarevic made
a shaky start in Belgrade [Reuters]
The world number 49 could hardly have started in worse fashion, opening with two double faults and failing to find any form.
"That never happened to me in my life," Tipsarevic, who was Serbia's hero in the semi-final defeat of the Czech Republic, said.
"Honestly I don't know whether I should play [on Sunday] and what to expect, it's up to the captain."
Monfils admitted Tipsarevic's shaky start, which included two double faults, helped settle his own nerves.
"I got into the match straight away and that helped settle me," he said.
"I'm really happy with the result. Janko started off with two double faults, and straight away I saw that he was tense. That helped me to relax a little."
Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement will represent France in Saturday's doubles encounter when they meet Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki while the reverse singles will be on Sunday.