PERTH, AUSTRALIA – Yoshihito Nishioka notched his second upset to start the season after downing world No. 26 Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets Monday, as injury-hit Japan continued to surprise at the ATP Cup.
The world No. 72 won 6-2, 6-3 in Perth to clinch the tie for unbeaten Japan after Go Soeda prevailed over Georgia’s Aleksandre Metreveli 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Japan, which whitewashed Uruguay on Saturday, is surprisingly atop Group B in the 24-nation event despite the withdrawal of injured star Kei Nishikori and Yasutaka Uchiyama, its third best player, before the tournament.
The top eight countries from the round robin go onto a knockout phase in Sydney.
Nishioka, 24, has relished the extra responsibility, having beaten Basilashvili and world No. 45 Pablo Cuevas, who he thrashed 6-0, 6-1 on Saturday.
“I think I played my best tennis and (I’m) very happy about this,” he said of his win against the Georgian.
The left-handed Nishioka’s pinpoint accuracy rattled Basilashvili, who constantly misfired in an error-strewn first set.
Basilashvili broke in the third game of the second set but was unable to build on that, as Nishioka overcame service struggles of his own to prevail in straight sets.
In the earlier match, veteran Soeda had to work to edge Metreveli, who rebounded from a nightmare debut at the ATP level, when he failed to win a game against Spanish world No. 9 Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday.
Metreveli, ranked No. 678, was broken early before finally getting on the board in the fourth game . He then broke back and began dictating the action with aggressive groundstrokes to claim his first set on tour.
Both players struggled to hold serve in a seesaw start to the second set, but Soeda leveled the match after taking advantage of Metreveli’s susceptible forehand and cruised from there.
“I was really tight in the first set, but I tried to focus after that,” Soeda said.