France have taken their first step towards the inaugural ATP Cup finals in Sydney, beating Chile in their Group A clash in Brisbane thanks to the veteran pair of Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire.
Singles victories to Monfils and Paire gave France an unbeatable 2-1 lead in their tie against Chile, before the South Americans hit back in the doubles when Nicolas Jarry and Cristian Garin beat Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-5, 6-2.
It was a meaningful win for the French given they are in a quality group that also includes South Africa and the Novak Djokovic-lead Serbia, with those nations due to clash on Saturday night.
The six group winners and the two best second-placed teams all progress to next week’s finals in Sydney.
Monfils, the world No.10, had some tense moments in his singles opener against Garin before progressing in straight sets 6-3, 7-5. By that stage, world No.24 Paire had negotiated his way through a dramatic affair against Jarry.
Jarry took the opening set in a tie-breaker and threatened to produce the early upset, but Paire found some timing in the second and third to rebound strongly, claiming a 6-7 (7-3), 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Monfils said he felt flat at times early in the contest but felt strong once he got into his work, giving him confidence for the rest of the tournament and the Australian Open.
“It was great today,” Monfils said. “I think he had a good period in the second set … actually a strong period – it shook me a little bit – but I think slowly I got back in shape.”
“I had a good pre-season and then I had to stop because I hurt a bit myself during the pre-season. And then I come back a little bit stronger.
“And here I was hitting it quite a lot [in training] and it felt great. My goal is to have my peak for the Aussie Open,” Monfils added.
Australia play their second tie on Sunday against Canada, with Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur resuming their singles roles after both claimed wins in the victory over Germany.