Paris: Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray sprinted through their Davis Cup openers on Friday to edge Serbia and defending champions Great Britain closer to a dream quarter-final showdown.
World number one Djokovic showed no signs of the eye infection which brought his run of 17 successive finals to an end in Dubai last week as he brushed past Kazakhstan's Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in Belgrade.
Djokovic, who led Serbia to the 2010 title, did require treatment on a left shoulder problem although it did not prevent him from securing an easy win over his 200th-ranked opponent. "The shoulder is nothing and the eye infection is behind me so I am looking forward to playing the doubles on Saturday," said Djokovic.
World number 23 Viktor Troicki will tackle Kazakhstan's top player, Mikhail Kukushkin, the world 79, in Friday's second singles. Serbia could face Great Britain in the July quarter-finals and Murray did his best to keep that clash on track when he saw off Japan's world number 87 Taro Daniel 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in just 90 minutes in Birmingham.
The second singles match on Friday is between Japan's world number six Kei Nishikori and Dan Evans, who was only selected to play after Kyle Edmund failed to overcome a back injury. Murray was playing for the first time since losing to Djokovic in last month's Australian Open final, opting instead to spend time with new daughter Sophia, born on February 7, and wife Kim Sears. "The last few weeks have been the best of my life, it's been really, really special," he told the BBC. "It's been tough the last few days being away from her (new daughter Sophia) for the first time. It had to happen at some time.
It's a pleasure to come and represent my country though." Australia's Bernard Tomic fought off a challenge from American Jack Sock to level their tie 1-1 in Melbourne. Tomic looked to be heading for a comfortable victory, rolling through the opening two sets, before being forced to battle hard to win 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours 24 minutes on the grass surface of Kooyong.
The victory, in sweltering temperatures, was crucial for Lleyton Hewitt's Australians, who lost the opening singles rubber when Sam Groth went down to big-hitting world number 11 John Isner 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-2. The tie is well poised heading into Saturday's pivotal doubles rubber with the Americans looking to edge ahead through the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, against a yet to be determined Australian combination.
The winner of that tie will face either last year's runners-up Belgium or 2005 champions Croatia in the last eight. Former US Open champion Marin Cilic gave Croatia a winning start in Liege, seeing off Kimmer Coppejans 7-5, 6-3, 7-5. Switzerland, the champions in 2014, are in Pesaro to face Italy without Roger Federer, who is recovering from knee surgery, and the resting Stan Wawrinka. Instead their hopes will be spearheaded by 34-year-old Marco Chiudinelli, whose ranking is a lowly 146.
The winner of that tie will face either Poland or Argentina, who are playing in Gdansk. Guido Pella defeated Michal Przysiezny 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) to give Argentina, runners-up three times since 2006, an early lead. In Guadeloupe, Yannick Noah's first match in his second spell as France captain got off to a winning start when Gael Monfils eased past Frank Dancevic 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in the tie against Canada.
The Canadians' hopes were hit on the eve of the tie when world number 13 Milos Raonic and doubles specialist Daniel Nestor were ruled out. The eventual winners face either Germany or the Czech Republic, champions in 2012 and 2013, in the next round. World number 30 Philipp Kohlschreiber gave Germany the lead in Hanover with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Lukas Rosol. Czech number one Tomas Berdych will face 18-year-old debutant Alexander Zverev in the second singles rubber.