World number one Novak Djokovic steered Serbia to the brink of the Davis Cup quarter-finals Friday, easing past Belgian veteran Olivier Rochus on a makeshift court he described as the worst he's ever encountered.
Australian Open champion Djokovic needed just an hour and 39 minutes to beat 32-year-old Rochus 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to give Serbia a 2-0 lead in their World Group first round tie after Viktor Troicki had earlier needed five sets to defeat David Goffin.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Djokovic had lambasted the clay court laid out over the parquet floor at the Spiroudome de Charleroi.
"It's the worst court I have ever played on. It's very, very dangerous," raged the world's top player who wrapped up a sixth major in Melbourne last weekend.
But the International Tennis Federation claimed that the court was playable.
"There has been some speculation that laying the temporary clay court surface on wood was a source of the problem but the ITF has approved many temporary clay courts laid on wood including more than twelve since 2009 that have been laid without issue," said an ITF statement.
"The ITF would like to thank the Federation Royale Belge de Tennis for their response to our requests and their efforts over the last 24 hours to ensure that the court is fit for play."
Troicki battled back from two sets down against Goffin to win 1-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4 as Serbia, the 2010 champions, eyed reaching the World Group quarter-finals for a fourth consecutive year.
France put one foot in the last eight when they took a 2-0 lead over Israel in Rouen in a tie which represented Arnaud Clement's debut as national coach.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the world number eight, beat 173-ranked Amir Weintraub 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 before world number 10 Richard Gasquet breezed past Dudi Sela, ranked at 106, in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
Defending champions Czech Republic finished the day in Geneva at 1-1 against Switzerland.
Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss team's number one in the absence of Roger Federer, saw off Lukas Rosol, the shock conqueror of Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
World number six Tomas Berdych then defeated Finland-born Henri Laaksonen, the world 289, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1.
The winners of that tie will meet either Kazakhstan or Austria in the last eight.
Kazakhstan led 2-0 after the opening day in Astana with Andrey Golubev beating Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) and Evgeny Korolov seeing off the experienced Jurgen Melzer 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-2.
Later Friday, Spain, winners three times in the last five years, are in Vancouver to face Canada without their three top players -- the injured Nadal and Nicolas Almagro and the resting David Ferrer.
The winner of that tie will face either Italy or Croatia.
Marin Cilic gave Croatia a 1-0 lead in Turin with a 6-1, 6-7 (6/8), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Paolo Lorenzi who had replaced flu-hit Fabio Fognini.
But Andreas Seppi pulled Italy level with a 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-4 win over Ivan Dodig.
The United States, the 32-time champions, face Brazil in Jacksonville where the winners will face either Belgium or Serbia.
Argentina, who have lost all the three finals in which they have appeared, went 1-0 ahead against Germany in dramatic circumstances in Buenos Aires.
Carlos Berlocq claimed the first point when Philipp Kohlschreiber was forced to quit in the final set because of a thigh injury with the score standing at 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 4-5.
"I couldn't walk," said world number 19 Kohlschreiber, who also pulled out of Sunday's reverse singles to be replaced by Tobias Kamke.
Argentina, playing without world number seven Juan Martin del Potro, can go 2-0 up if Juan Monaco gets past Florian Mayer.
The winner of the tie will face either France or Israel for a semi-final spot.