Davis Cup: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori have Canada and Japan level
Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori won their opening matches on Friday to put Canada and Japan level at 1-1 and set themselves up for a blockbuster Davis Cup clash.
Canadian number one Raonic, ranked sixth in the world, got the World Group first-round tie off to a smooth start for the hosts, overpowering the 85th-ranked Tatsuma Ito 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.
The Canadian converted six of his seven break chances, breaking Ito twice in each set to wrap up the opener in one hour and 27 minutes.
Raonic fired 17 aces and never faced a break point.
Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, ranked fourth in the world, leveled the tie with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 win over Vasek Pospisil.
Friday`s split means that no matter what happens in Saturday`s doubles -- in which Daniel Nestor and Pospisil are slated to take on Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama -- Sunday`s highly anticipated singles match between Raonic and Nishikori will be key.
Nishikori owns a 4-2 career record against Raonic. They exchanged a pair of fourth-round Grand Slam victories in 2014, and Nishikori beat Raonic in the 2012 and 2014 Tokyo finals and in the 2014 ATP Madrid Masters round of 16.
Raonic took their most recent meeting in a Brisbane semi-final.
In Sunday`s final singles rubber, Pospisil will take on Ito.
Canada are out for a bit of Davis Cup revenge against Japan.
The Canadians rolled to the 2013 Davis Cup semi-finals before falling to Serbia at Belgrade but last year lost 4-1 to Japan at Tokyo, falling to 0-6 all-time against Japan in Davis Cup play.
Beating Canada last year launched Japan into the second round of the World Group for the first time, but with Nishikori injured and absent in the quarter-finals, they were hammered 5-0 by then-defending champion Czech Republic.
The winner of the tie will face either defending champion Switzerland or Belgium in the quarter-finals in July.