VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – World No. 4 Kei Nishikori defeated Vasek Pospisil in straight sets to pull Japan level at 1-1 in its Davis Cup World Group first-round tie against Canada on Friday.
The day started with Canada’s top player — No. 6 ranked Milos Raonic — reeling off 19 aces and putting Canada ahead with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 85 Tatsuma Ito.
But Nishikori, who last month became the first player to win the Memphis Open title three times in a row, made it all square in the second singles match, beating 62nd-ranked Pospisil 6-4, 7-5 (7-5), 6-3.
“I’m pleased,” said Nishikori, runner-up at the Mexico Open last Saturday. “I had a bit of concern about the fast surface but gathered momentum and was able to play with confidence.”
“I have to prepare well for the next match and not forget this feeling.”
Japan beat Canada 4-1 last year to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since the current WG format started in 1981, although the Canadians were Raonic and Pospisil because of injuries.
The doubles take place Saturday, with Daniel Nestor and Pospisil scheduled to face Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama.
The eye-catching match of the weekend will be the battle between 2014 U.S. Open finalist Nishikori and Raonic on Sunday. The final match of the tie features Pospisil against Ito.
Nishikori beat Raonic en route to the U.S. Open final last year and also prevailed in the final of the 2014 Japan Open. He holds a 4-2 record in their head-to-heads, but Raonic won their last meeting in Brisbane in January.
Also Friday, James Ward had won an epic five-set Davis Cup match then stumbled — almost zig-zagged — across the court and fell into teammate Andy Murray’s arms after rallying from two sets down to beat American No. 1 John Isner 6-7 (4-7), 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 15-13 in 4 hours, 57 minutes in Glasgow, Scotland. It was the longest U.S. Davis Cup match since the introduction of the tiebreaker in 1989.
The victory put Britain 2-0 ahead and on the cusp of a second straight win over the United States in the first round of the World Group.
When Isner sent a backhand volley into the net on his opponent’s sixth match point, Ward threw his racket toward the net, pumped his chest and looked into the air. Then he hugged Britain captain Leon Smith, lapped up the applause of the crowd and made his way wearily over to Murray, who was close to tears.
“Five hours of John Isner isn’t easy to do,” Ward said, referring to one of the most powerful servers in tennis who memorably won an 11-hour match against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010. “It’s pleasing to last longer than he did.”
Ward has won four of his five five-set matches in the Davis Cup.
Head bowed and with a towel around his neck, Isner was applauded off the court by the 7,700-capacity crowd and was emotional even an hour after the match. He has now lost all five of his five-set matches in the Davis Cup, but this one — from two sets up — clearly hurt.
“It’s brutal,” Isner said, his bottom lip quivering and with masses of strapping around his right knee. “I’m barely going to sleep tonight. It’s awful. Mentally, I’m certainly a bit shaken.”
Murray cheered Ward on from the sideline throughout, and looked happier than he did after beating Young.
Murray had it much easier Friday, winning 6-1, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 in his first match in his native Scotland since winning Wimbledon in 2013.