France, Swiss, stroll, Davis Cup holders Czechs in Dutch fight back
Roger Federer returns the ball to Serbia's Ilija Bozoljac during the Davis Cup World Group first round tie in Novi Sad on January 31, 2014 - by Andrej Isakovic
Roger Federer and newly crowned Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka put the Swiss 2-0 up in Serbia to leave last year's beaten finalists on the brink of an early elimination.
Australia too were heading for the Davis Cup exit after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet were on target for France.
In Ostrava, the Czechs were left facing an uphill battle when the Netherlands' Robin Haase saw off Radek Stepanek (CZE) 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-1.
But Tomas Berdych cruised past Igor Sijsling (NED) 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 to draw the the 2012 and 2013 champions back level ahead of Saturday's doubles.
"I didn't know much about him... I tried to attack him a lot," said Berdych, a semi-finalist of the Australian Open where he lost to eventual champion Wawrinka.
Elsewhere five-time winners Spain, missing Rafael Nadal, were up against it losing 2-0 to Germany in Frankfurt, Argentina were level 1-1 with Italy in Mar del Plata, Kazakhstan led Belgium 2-0 in Astana, and Japan and Canada were all square in Tokyo.
In San Diego, world number four Andy Murray put Great Britain 1-0 over the USA with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Donald Young.
American Sam Querrey will seek to level the tie in the day's second rubber against James Ward.
On the clay in Mouilleron-le-Captif, France were sitting pretty after Gasquet beat Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (7/3), 6-2, 6-2, before Tsonga ousted Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).
World number ten Tsonga had defeated Hewitt, ranked 41, in all their three previous ties and won through in one hour and 51 minutes to give Arnaud Clement's men the chance to finish off the tie in the doubles on Saturday.
"It was the perfect match. I was walking on water for two sets," said Tsonga.
"Lleyton came back well but then got overwhelemed by little faults. Luckily I never underestimated Lleyton who is a fighter. I knew that he would fight to the final ball."
Federer, a last-minute addition to the Swiss team, won through 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 against 268th-ranked Ilija Bozoljac on the hard court surface in Novi Sad.
The Swiss, bouyed with two Grand Slam winners in their ranks, are favourites with Serbia weakened by the absence of star turns Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic.
Tired from his exploits in the heat of Melbourne Wawrinka then stepped up to battle past 102nd ranked Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (9/7).
"It was a tough match and it wasn't easy for me to come here after the last few weeks," Wawrinka told reporters.
"I didn't really have enough time to get ready as I was exhausted both mentally and physically, but I was determined to fight and win the match and I was really happy to get through it.
"He is a good player and tough to beat in front of his home fans so it was a tough situation for me, so we are really happy to be 2-0 up after the opening day."
In Frankfurt, Philipp Kohlschreiber gave Germany a winning start over Spain with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory in less than two hours against Roberto Bautista Agut.
Spain's 26th-ranked Feliciano Lopez then fell 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 5-7, 6-3 to Florian Mayer, ranked 29, in their second rubber.
The Spanish are playing without their stars - world number one Nadal and fifth-ranked David Ferrer.
In Mar del Plata, Carlos Berlocq put hosts Argentina ahead by beating Italy's Andreas Seppi 4-6, 6-0, 6-2, 6-1.
But Italy drew level when Fabio Fognini defeated Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.
In Tokyo, Japanese number one Kei Nishikori beat Canada's Peter Polansky 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 before Frank Dancevic levelled 6-4, 7-6(7/2), 6-1 win over Go Soeda.