Kei Nishikori, who jumped to a career-high fourth in this week`s world rankings, will lead visiting Japan into a first-round Davis Cup tie Friday against sixth-ranked Milos Raonic`s Canadian squad.
Nishikori, last year`s US Open runner-up, has a 4-2 career record against Raonic, a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year. They exchanged fourth-round victories over each other in those deep 2014 Grand Slam runs.
The growing rivalry also saw Nishikori beat Raonic in the 2012 and 2014 Tokyo finals and the 2014 ATP Madrid Masters round of 16, but Raonic took their most recent meeting in a Brisbane semi-final in which all three sets went to tie-breakers.
"It`s never easy to play against him," Nishikori said of Raonic. "But I also enjoy playing him."
Raonic, known for his overpowering serve, is on an eight-match home soil win streak in Davis Cup play and will be looking to avenge Canada`s first-round Davis Cup defeat in Japan last year, when Raonic was injured.
"Getting a chance to play him on home soil is something I look forward to," Raonic said.
The three-day matchup on an indoor hard court at Thunderbird Sports Centre also features Go Soeda, Tatsuma Ito and Yasutaka Uchiyama for Japan and doubles specialist Daniel Nestor, Vasek Pospisil and Frank Dancevic for Canada.
Canada 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.
"We definitely know from recent experience how dangerous an opponent Japan can be," Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said. "But unlike last year we are at home, with a healthy team and back in familiar confines where we have had a lot of recent success. So we feel confident."
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.
This year`s Japan-Canada winner will face either defending champion Switzerland or Belgium in the second round in July.