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Japan loses to Croatia in first round of Davis Cup

Kyodo

Japan made a first-round exit in the Davis Cup World Group with a 3-2 loss to Croatia on Sunday.

Go Soeda lost to Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 6-4 in a decisive fifth match after Kei Nishikori defeated Ivan Dodig 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 at Bourbon Beans Dome.

Karlovic won all three matches he played in as many days, two singles and one doubles rubber, to send 2005 champion Croatia into the quarterfinals to be held in April.

Japan was making its first appearance in the top-tier World Group in 27 years and will have to win a promotion/relegation playoff series in September against a zonal Group I qualifier to stay in the group.

Soeda did the best he could against the 208-cm big server in the first set, staying on serve to force a tiebreak.

But Karlovic made a difference with his powerful serve, acing twice and having one service winner to take the tiebreak.

Soeda was unable to earn a single break point against Karlovic, who holds the world record for the fastest serve at 251 kph.

Karlovic, ranked 43rd in the world, finished off 90th-ranked Soeda with three consecutive aces.

“I’m really happy because we won,” Karlovic said. “In the end, that is the most important thing. I was playing really well and my serve was really good.”

Asked if he was tired during his third match of the series, Karlovic said, “When you are playing the last match and your team’s fate is on the line, there is no room for being tired.”

Karlovic fired 17 aces against Soeda and won 89 percent of his points when his first serve went in. He also won 75 percent of his second-serve points, against 42 percent for Soeda.

“I tried to play aggressively from the beginning because I didn’t want him to break my serve first,” Soeda said. “After I dropped the first set, I continued to feel the pressure of catching him.”