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Nadal hands Spain flying start against French

Rafael Nadal cast off fatigue and his US Open final loss to Novak Djokovic to thrash Richard Gasquet in Friday's opening rubber of the Davis Cup semi-final to hand the hosts and four-times champions a 1-0 lead.

World number two Nadal blitzed Gasquet 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 to underline the Spaniards' status of favourites on home clay as they look to advance to a final against either defending champions Serbia or Argentina, who were facing off in Belgrade.

With two top five ranked players in Nadal and David Ferrer, Spain are bidding to reach the final for the third time in four years in Cordoba's bullring.

France, runners-up last year, were hoping to follow on from their 5-0 whitewash over their hosts in last year's World Group quarter-finals but now have a tough challenge ahead after their poor start which saw Nadal take his career series with 15th-ranked Gasquet to 10-0.

Fifth-ranked Ferrer was taking on Gilles Simon, ranked 11, in Friday's second rubber. AFP

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