Paris: Richard Gasquet gave France a 1-0 lead over the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup semi-finals in Paris on Friday, winning the opening rubber against Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
The second of the singles opposes French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against Lukas Rosol.
Gasquet, who was chosen ahead of recent US Open semi-finalist Gael Monfils, took control early on in front of a packed Philippe Chatrier centre-court and he pocketed the first set 6-3 with a superb backhand drive down the line.
And it was the power of the Gasquet backhand again that led to world number six Berdych dropping serve twice in a row at the start of the second set.
The Czech team spearhead claimed one of those breaks back to get to 3-1 but Gasquet held firm and broke again to take the set 6-2.
Berdych held serve to open the third set but he was broken to love two games later as an on-fire Gasquet continued to dominate on the claycourt.
Gasquet had two match points in the ninth game and a double-fault from Berdych on the second of those gave the French a crucial opening point.
"I had a lot of pressure, but the crowd was unbelievable," said Gasquet.
"I didn't shut it out, I tried to hear it. The ambience is incredible. Court Philippe Chatrier is built for Davis Cup."
The Czechs are the defending champions, having won the last two editions of the Davis Cup, while France are seeking their first win in the team event since 2001.
The other semi-final is being held in Geneva, where Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka will start as strong favourites against Italy.