BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina easily took a 2-0 lead over Britain in their Davis Cup world group tie on Friday, with straight-sets wins for Agustin Calleri and David Nalbandian.
World number 41 Calleri beat Alex Bogdanovic 6-3 6-1 6-1 after Nalbandian, ninth in the world, had coasted to a 6-1 6-3 6-3 victory over Davis Cup debutant Jamie Baker in the opening singles rubber at a half-full Parque Roca stadium.
By the third set of the second match light rain was falling and Bogdanovic seemed in a rush to end the humiliation as Britain struggled without injured world number 11 Andy Murray.
Nalbandian raced to a 5-0 lead in 16 minutes against a timid Baker, ranked 235 in the world, and, after a slight loss of concentration, concluded the first set in 25 minutes on his fifth set point.
A determined Nalbandian quickly took a 2-0 lead in the second but the British player, more relaxed, began to come into the match and a more disputed set lasted 40 minutes.
The scenario looked like repeating itself in the third set with the Argentine again taking a 2-0 lead. However, a loss of focus by Nalbandian enabled Baker to come back and stay level up to 3-3 before the Argentine closed it out.
“I started off the first set playing really well. Up to 5-0 I think I was playing solid to show my rival that he’d have to suffer to win,” Nalbandian told reporters.
Baker said he had enjoyed his debut, despite the result. “In the second and third set I was level, I think I did pretty well. I loved the feeling on the court. I thought the crowd were very fair — for me the louder the better no matter for whom,” Baker told reporters.
Britain’s slim hopes of troubling Argentina on their favourite clay surface in Buenos Aires virtually disappeared when Murray had to withdraw because of a knee injury.
“On paper our best chance to get a point on the board is the doubles,” Baker said. Murray’s brother Jamie will partner Ross Hutchins against Nalbandian and Jose Acasuso in Saturday’s doubles.
In Friday’s second match, Calleri began well, taking a 2-0 lead, but Bogdanovic battled back to 2-2. Calleri broke the Briton’s serve to lead 5-3 and finished the set on his serve.
Halfway through the third set Bogdanovic, the world number 188, lost his composure and began to hit a large number of unforced errors, surrendering the last five games of the match.
Argentine captain Alberto Mancini said: “It’s as we wanted it, two quick games, so we’re calm, thinking about the doubles.”
British captain John Lloyd said his players had been outclassed.
“Unfortunately both of our guys are used to playing at challenger level most of the year and at that level you can wait for mistakes and get a few free points. But at this level you can’t and although they played well they were a little exposed.”
Editing by Clare Fallon