• Kyodo


Richard Gasquet said he is expecting a stern test in the opening singles rubber Friday after being drawn against Taro Daniel in France’s World Group first-round tie against Japan in the Davis Cup.

Daniel won both his singles matches as Japan kept its place in the World Group with a sweep of Ukraine in a playoff in Osaka in September last year, but Gasquet, ranked 96 places above Daniel, is favored to get France off to winning start in the first meeting between the two players at Ariake Colosseum.

Gasquet, at world No. 18 France’s top-ranked player in the four-man team that captain Yannick Noah has selected, says he was impressed with what he saw after watching 114th-ranked Daniel play at the French Open last year.

Daniel pushed Stan Wawrinka in the first set in Paris before going down 7-6 (9-7), 6-3, 6-4 in the second round.

“I saw him (Daniel) play last year at Roland Garros against Wawrinka so I know he is a tough player, a solid one, so of course I need to play my best to win,” said Gasquet.

“It’s a Davis Cup match and everything is tough so I have to go on the court and try and win this match.”

Speaking about Japan’s chances in the absence of world No. 5 Kei Nishikori, Daniel said, “All I can say is that I am looking forward to playing against such a strong team. We are all well prepared for this tie and a win is not beyond the realms of possibility.

“Mistakes will happen and chances will come our way and we have to believe in ourselves, enjoy ourselves and do our best.”

Yoshihito Nishioka, Japan’s top-ranked player at 85 in Nishikori’s absence, faces 24th-ranked Gilles Simon in what will be their first meeting in Friday’s second singles match.

“I am happy that I have the chance to challenge higher-ranked players on a stage like this and it is an honor to be Japan’s top player at the Davis Cup,” said Nishioka.

“I have to try and live up to that, play my game with all my might and try to get a win on the first day.”

Simon said he will be looking for tips from teammate Lucas Pouille, who has made the trip as a reserve but will not play, about how to approach Nishioka. Pouille beat Nishioka 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the first round at the Brisbane International last year.

“I don’t know him (Nishioka) that well,” said Simon. “I just know that Lucas played against him and I am going to ask him what he remembers. I have a few videos to watch in the afternoon and will have a think about it.”

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