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Favorites struggle in first day of Davis Cup quarterfinals

LONDON--Two of the favorites struggled on the first day of the Davis Cup quarterfinals Friday, with Germany closing in on a big upset against France and Switzerland only managing to split the opening singles matches against Kazakhstan.

In the match of the day, 119th-ranked Peter Gojowczyk beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a five-set marathon to give injury-hit Germany a 2-0 lead over host France. Gojowczyk won 5-7, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (8), 8-6 after Tobias Kamke had defeated Julien Benneteau 7-6 (8), 6-3, 6-2.

“It is incredible, that was unexpected. To feel the spirit and atmosphere of the place is great,” Germany captain Carsten Arriens said. “He was playing against Tsonga so you can't expect him to win, but he stayed in the match.”

Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka also surprisingly lost his opening singles match for host Switzerland against 64th-ranked Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (5). That left it up to Roger Federer to even the best-of-five series at 1-1 by easily dispatching Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“I was very satisfied with my performance,” Federer said. “It doesn't change in terms of being 1-0 up or down — I have to make sure I played my match.”

The Czech Republic lived up to its status as favorite, although both Radek Stepanek and Lukas Rosol had to work hard before winning their singles matches to give the defending champion a 2-0 lead over Japan. Stepanek beat Tatsuma Ito 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-1, 7-5 at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo and Rosol overcame Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.

In the other quarterfinal, Italy was up 1-0 over Britain after Fabio Fognini beat James Ward in Naples and the second match between Andreas Seppi and Andy Murray was suspended because of darkness. Fognini was made to struggle against a player ranked 148 places below him before winning 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in more than three hours. Murray was leading 6-4, 5-5 when play was stopped on a rain-interrupted day. The match will resume Saturday morning ahead of the doubles.

The Swiss duo of Wawrinka and Federer remains heavily favored to overcome Kazakhstan, but France suddenly finds itself in trouble in a series it was expected to breeze through. Germany is without all of its best players — Tommy Haas, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer — and has lost its last six Davis Cup meetings against France.

That counted for little, though, on a day when both Tsonga and Benneteau faltered at key moments. Tsonga missed two match points in the fourth set, while Benneteau wasted five set points in the first set, having led 4-0.

“It's hard to take but of course but there is still hope. Of course we were heavy favorites and suddenly we find ourselves 2-0 down,” France coach Arnaud Clement said. “Everything is possible. We will start by trying to win the doubles.”

The doubles matches are Saturday followed by reverse singles on Sunday.

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French tennis player Jo-Wifried Tsonga grimaces after missing a point in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup in Nancy, eastern France on Friday, April 4. (AP)

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