Japan back in Davis Cup World Group after 26 years away


Staff Writer

Japan stormed back into the World Group of the Davis Cup after a 26-year absence on Sunday with a 4-1 victory over India.

Ace Kei Nishikori posted a comprehensive 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 win over Vishnu Vardhan at a windswept Ariake Colosseum to give the hosts an unassailable 3-1 lead in the opening reverse singles match.

Nishikori, ranked 64th in the world, broke Vardhan in the 11th game of the first set, powering a forehand winner past the Indian. Nishikori then closed out the set with an ace.

Vardhan, ranked 456th and making his Davis Cup debut, displayed an excellent slice throughout the contest, which caused Nishikori difficulty at times. Nishikori countered with a deft drop shot that he converted on several occasions.

The 21-year-old Nishikori began to take command of the match in the second set, breaking Vardhan in the third game and again in the ninth to take a 2-0 lead. Just as Nishikori began to hit more winners, Vardhan started committing more unforced errors and appeared fatigued.

The final set provided more of the same, as Nishikori broke in the sixth game and held serve, finishing the match with an ace after Vardhan had staved off two match points. The Shimane native completed the win in 2 hours and 10 minutes.

“I’m happy we are going back to the World Group,” said Nishikori.

“I’m sure we can compete there.”

The victories this year over Uzbekistan and India have instilled confidence in the star.

“We have the power and ability to play against the stronger nations,” Nishikori commented. “My serve is getting better and I believe in myself. My personal goal is to make the top 30 by the end of the year.”

“I’m very pleased with this victory today,” Japan captain Eiji Takeuchi said following the triumph. “It has been a long time since Japan played in the World Group. I can still remember when we played the United States 27 years ago. I was 20 years old then.”

Takeuchi was impressed by Vardhan’s effort in defeat.

“His ranking is much lower than Kei’s, but he put up a good fight,” Takeuchi said. “He showed some nice skills and a strong serve early in the match.”

Vardhan’s only break point chance came in the fourth game of the second set, but he was unable to convert it.

“I thought I played some of the best tennis of my life today,” Vardhan stated. “It was awesome to be a part of this Davis Cup team.”

The 24-year-old felt like he forced the Japan No. 1 to step up his game.

“I thought I really pushed Nishikori to play better out there,” he said.

Japan won the second reverse singles match when Rohan Bopanna retired with a blister on his toe while leading Go Soeda 5-4 in the first set.

The draw for the 16-team 2012 World Group will take place in Bangkok on Sept. 21. Japan will be unseeded and therefore have to play one of the top eight seeds.

India will return to zonal play in Asia Group One next year.

Darkness stops match


Stanislas Wawrinka was within one game of beating Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt and sending Switzerland into next year’s elite Davis Cup World Group when play was suspended due to fading light Sunday on grass courts at Royal Sydney Golf Club.

Wawrinka led Hewitt 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 5-3 when officials stopped play until 11 a.m. Monday. Hewitt will be serving to stay in the match.

Earlier Sunday, Roger Federer defeated Bernard Tomic 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 to pull Switzerland level at 2-2.