Tennis

Japan splits two opening matches against China in Davis Cup qualifying round

Kyodo

Japan broke even in its first two singles matches against China on Friday, the first day of the 2019 Davis Cup qualifying round.

Taro Daniel won his match 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 against China’s Zhang Ze at the Guangdong Olympic Tennis Centre, while Yoshihito Nishioka suffered a 6-3, 6-2 defeat to Li Zhe in the first rubber.

Daniel said he had difficulty controlling the rallies in the beginning of the match, but he gradually picked up his rhythm, breaking Zhang’s serve twice in the second set.

“It was huge that Taro was able to help us hold off China’s momentum,” Japan coach Satoshi Iwabuchi said. “It was a great way to end the day because we still have a chance tomorrow.”

On Saturday, Japan doubles pair Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama take on Zhang and Gong Maoxin. Nishioka will face Zhang while Daniel plays Li in the final two singles rubbers later in the day.

McLachlan and Uchiyama sealed Japan’s win against Bosnia-Herzegovina in September in the World Group playoffs after Daniel and Nishioka prevailed in their matches. Japan was consigned to the World Group playoffs following a first-round defeat against Italy last February.

Three wins are needed to advance past the two-day qualifier held between 24 teams across the world. The 12 winning teams of the round will advance to the Nov. 18-24 Davis Cup finals held in Spain, where they will compete against last year’s semifinalists and two wild-card teams.