Nadal, back on his beloved red clay, needed a little over two hours to claim a 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 victory in the opening singles rubber. He improved to 10-0 lifetime against Gasquet, who did not manage a single break point against the super Spaniard and had his own serve broken seven times.
Gasquet failed to win a single point against Nadal's serve in the dominant second set. Nadal had 33 total winners, while Gasquet mustered only 19.
Saturday's doubles match is slated to feature the Spanish tandem of Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco against the French duo of Michael Llodra and Jo- Wilfried Tsonga, while Sunday's reverse singles currently call for Nadal to meet Simon and Ferrer to lock horns with Gasquet.
The powerful Spaniards, captained by former French Open champ Albert Costa, have won four of the last 11 Davis Cup titles, while the nine-time champion French, piloted by long-time captain Guy Forget, are seeking their first championship since 2001.
This is the eighth all-time Davis Cup meeting between these two proud tennis nations, with Spain holding a 5-2 advantage in a series that dates back to 1923.
The best-of-five winner here will meet the Argentina-Serbia victor in the 2011 Davis Cup final in December.