Tennis-Serbia and France off to winning starts in Davis Cup

VALENCIA (Reuters) - Serbia made a victorious start to their Davis Cup Finals group stage campaign by beating South Korea on Tuesday before 24-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic arrives for tougher tests ahead.

Djokovic will join the team in Valencia shortly for their last two Group C ties against Spain and the Czech Republic later this week, having claimed the U.S. Open crown on Sunday to equal Margaret Court's record haul of 24 major singles titles.

The 36-year-old's team mates ensured there were no hiccups in their opener as Dusan Lajovic downed Hong Seong-chan 6-4 7-6(3) and Laslo Djere battled past Kwon Soon-woo 4-6 6-2 6-2 to give Serbia an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie.

"It's an amazing feeling," Djere said. "I just tried to stay composed. He (Kwon) played extremely well in the first set. He's coming back from an injury, hasn't played for a few months.

"It's tough to play against a player who you consider is not at his highest level but this is the Davis Cup and everybody can surprise you."

In Manchester, 10-time champions France began their bid to make the quarter-finals for the first time since 2018 by beating Switzerland 3-0.

Adrian Mannarino battled past Dominic Stricker 3-6 6-1 6-4 while Ugo Humbert sealed a comfortable 6-4 6-4 win over veteran Stan Wawrinka, who made his return to Davis Cup duty earlier in 2023 after seven years away.

"It's always difficult to play against Stan because he's a fantastic champion," Humbert said. "It's better to go on to the court 1-0 up. Adrian played a great match."

Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin teamed up to beat Wawrinka and Marc-Andrea Huesler 6-2 6-2 in the doubles rubber.

France next face 2022 runners-up Australia on Thursday while Switzerland will aim to get their Group B campaign back on track when they meet hosts Britain the following day.

The top two teams from each of the four groups will advance to the knockout rounds in Malaga, which take place in November.

Leo Borg, the son of 11-time Grand Slam winner Bjorn Borg, fought hard but was unable to give Sweden the start they wanted in their Group A tie against Chile as Cristian Garin prevailed 7-6(6) 3-6 7-5 in Bologna.

Nicolas Jarry then settled the contest by defeating Elias Ymer 6-2 6-4 in 69 minutes.

In Group D, where ties are taking place in the Croatian city of Split, the Netherlands beat Finland 2-1 as Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop edged out Harri Heliovaara and Patrik Niklas-Salminen 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 in the deciding clash.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)