By Rex Gowar
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Juan Monaco beat Gilles Simon 7-6 6-2 6-4 in a duel of world top-20 players to put Argentina level 1-1 with France in their Davis Cup quarter-final on Friday.
The favorites took the first point when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga overcame Carlos Berlocq 4-6 6-2 6-3 5-7 6-2 after a slow start during which the Frenchman was broken in the opening game.
Visiting captain Arnaud Clement chose 13th-ranked Simon over Richard Gasquet in a calculated gamble for the second singles because the world number nine was suffering from fatigue and a nagging ankle problem.
Monaco, ranked 19th in the world, had not made a good start to the season but home advantage paid off on Friday as he was lifted by the passionate and noisy home crowd at Parque Roca.
He is from the Buenos Aires provincial capital La Plata where 50 people died in floods this week.
"We expected two very tight matches," Clement told reporters before looking ahead to Saturday's doubles between Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra, and Argentine pair David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos.
Argentine captain Martin Jaite said: "What was positive for me and makes me very proud was the performance of both my players. We have taken one point, we need two more."
Tsonga, who took nearly four hours to defeat Berlocq, said: "We knew it would be complicated. The crowd shout a lot between the first and second serves.
"I decided not to say anything (to the umpire). Each time they made a noise I had time to get more concentrated."
Berlocq, a 30-year-old journeyman who has spent most of his career in challenger tournaments, is enjoying belated recognition in the Davis Cup thanks in part to Juan Martin del Potro's decision to concentrate on his tour career.
"I was close to the best victory of my career but I didn't get it," said Berlocq.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)