Rafael Nadal claimed a record 23rd straight win in Davis Cup matches as he returned to action after 10 weeks out with victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber in Valencia.
The world No.1 ensured Spain finished the opening day of their quarter-final against Germany level at 1-1, after Alexander Zverev had earlier beaten David Ferrer 6-4 6-2 6-2.
Nadal was playing for the first time since retiring at the Australian Open with a leg injury, and the 10-time French Open champion looked at home back on the clay.
He saw off Kohlschreiber 6-2 6-2 6-3 to extend his winning run in Davis Cup singles to 14 years, stretching back to defeat in his first ever tie against Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic in 2004.
“All is good, I am happy about the answer of my body for this first match after a few months,” the 31-year-old told daviscup.com.
He's done it! @RafaelNadal defeats Philipp Kohlschreiber 62 62 63 to level the score on day one in Valencia
????????1??????1?????????? # DavisCup pic.twitter.com/tGXmvK0a91
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) April 6, 2018
“I’m happy for the way I came back in front of my crowd, it was a great feeling to play here at home.”
Nadal is next scheduled to face Zverev, the world No.4, in an enticing reverse singles on Sunday.
“I need to get a bit more solid with my serve, I cannot have mistakes with my serve like I did today, and Sashca is a very tough opponent,” added Nadal.
“It will be a big challenge, but at the same time I am excited to play that match. After a while without competing, that will be a good test for me too.”
In Genoa, Fabio Fognini saw to it that home side Italy ended the day on level terms with defending champions France as he beat Jeremy Chardy 6-7(8) 6-2 6-2 6-3.
Lucas Pouille had put France ahead with an epic 6-3 6-2 4-6 3-6 6-1 victory, saying afterwards: “The emotions are the maximum. It’s great to win that type of match.”
In the other half of the draw, Croatia, finalists two years ago, are also tied at 1-1 after Mikhail Kukushkin had a fine win over Borna Coric to draw Kazakhstan level in Varazdin.
Kukushkin, ranked 64 places lower than the in-form Coric at 92 in the world, came through 3-6 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2.
“I’m so happy to win and bring a point for Kazakhstan,” said Kukushkin.
“It wasn’t easy – Borna is such a good player in top form right now and playing really well, and the first set-and-a-half was a tough fight.”
World No.3 Marin Cilic had earlier eased past 258th-ranked Dmitry Popko 6-2 6-1 6-2.
In Nashville, newly-crowned Miami Open champion John Isner found it hard going against Joris de Loore, the world number 319, before setting the USA on their way to a 2-0 lead over Belgium.
Isner eventually came through 6-3 6-7(4) 7-6(8) 6-4, and Sam Querrey then saw off Ruben Bemelmans 6-1 7-6(5) 7-5.
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