Reuters Spain’s Rafael Nadal returned to action with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 Davis Cup win over Germany’s Philip Kohlschreiber on Friday to set a record for the longest winning streak in the competition’s history.
World No. 1 Nadal had not played since he retired from his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic in January with a leg injury, but made light work of Kohlschreiber to draw five-time winner Spain level at 1-1 in the tie.
Victory meant Nadal set the record for the longest Davis Cup winning streak in combined singles and doubles matches with 23 in a row.
Holder France was tied 1-1 with Italy in Genoa, and 2005 winner Croatia was also deadlocked against visitor Kazakhstan after a day of thrilling action on indoor red clay in Varazdin.
The heavily-favored U.S. team took a 2-0 lead against a depleted Belgium side on the indoor hard courts in Nashville, Tenn., to come within a point of its first Davis Cup semifinals in six years.
Nadal was swiftly back in the swing of things in Valencia, dismantling Kohlschreiber after Alexander Zverev blew away David Ferrer 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to put Germany in front.
The 31-year-old Nadal hardly put a foot wrong on his return, having produced 14 of his 30 winners in the opening set of a lopsided contest.
Kohlschreiber also went down tamely in the second set, before putting up more of a fight at the start of the third, but 16-time Grand Slam winner Nadal was relentless and wrapped up the match.
“It’s positive of course, winning in straight sets, it was a solid match. I feel comfortable back on the clay,” Nadal said on the Davis Cup website.
“It’s a great feeling to be back, coming back from injuries is always difficult, but it’s great to be in front of my crowd on a very memorable day. I’m very happy with the match.”
In Italy, Lucas Pouille fired the French ahead with a labored 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1 win over Andreas Seppi, before home favorite Fabio Fognini redressed the balance with a 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Jeremy Chardy.
Croatia’s Cilic breezed past Dmitry Popko 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 to give the hosts the lead against Kazakhstan, but the visitors hit back after Mikhail Kukushkin overpowered Borna Coric 3-6, 7-6 (5-7), 6-4, 6-2.
Miami Open champion John Isner smashed 43 aces to overcome a surprisingly stiff challenge from world No. 319 Joris de Loore to win the United States’ first point with a 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 victory in a match that lasted over three hours.
Isner’s countryman Sam Querrey faced less resistance from Ruben Bemelmans in the second match, winning 85 percent of his first service points to dispatch the Belgian 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.
“It felt good. It’s always nice to play second after your teammate gets a win. So John took a little pressure off of me, which was nice of him, so thanks John,” Querrey said during an on-court interview.