Cordoba, Spain: Rafael Nadal cast off fatigue and his US Open final loss to Novak Djokovic to thrash Richard Gasquet in Friday's opening rubber of the Davis Cup semi-final to hand the hosts and four-times champions a 1-0 lead.
World number two Nadal blitzed Gasquet 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 to underline the Spaniards' status of favourites on home clay as they look to advance to a final against either defending champions Serbia or Argentina, who were facing off in Belgrade.
With two top five ranked players in Nadal and David Ferrer, Spain are bidding to reach the final for the third time in four years in Cordoba's bullring.
France, runners-up last year, were hoping to follow on from their 5-0 whitewash over their hosts in last year's World Group quarter-finals but now have a tough challenge ahead after their poor start which saw Nadal take his career series with 15th-ranked Gasquet to 10-0.
Fifth-ranked Ferrer was taking on Gilles Simon, ranked 11, in Friday's second rubber.
Nadal had admitted to tiredness after his US Open final defeat but said that "if I come, it is above all to defend my country."
But he gave Gasquet no chance in 30 degrees Celsuis heat, breaking the Frenchman at the first time of asking and never giving his rival the hint of a chance before an enthuisiastic 10,000 crowd.
Having dropped serve to give Nadal the opening set on the two-time champion's third set point, Gasquet managed thereafter to win just one more game as the Spaniard tore past him in 2hr 06min, helped by a 100 percent return on first serve points won in the second set while he was equally dominant in the third set.
Spanish doubles specialists Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco are scheduled to face Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Saturday's doubles rubber before Nadal meets Simon and Ferrer goers up against Gasquet in Sunday's reverse singles.