Canada-Japan all even at Davis Cup after day one

Milos Raonic  and Kei Nishikori won matches for their respective countries on Friday, leaving the Davis Cup first round tie between Canada and Japan at 1-1 heading into Saturday.

Milos Raonic v. Tatsuma Ito

Raonic got a rocking pro-Canada crowd and his country the start they wanted in the 2015 Davis Cup on Friday, beating Tatsuma Ito 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in Vancouver.

The win gave Canada a 1-0 lead over Japan in the best-of-five series for a spot in the quarterfinals of the world’s premier international team tennis tournament.

Milos Raonic prepares to return against Tatsuma Ito.

Milos Raonic prepares to return against Tatsuma Ito.

Ito started the afternoon matching Raonic’s aggression with a few unexpected returns in the first couple of games that drew admiration from the crowd. But Raonic was bound to break the visitor down and with his serve, the Canadian did just that toward the end of the first set, especially once allowed an opening.

Raonic won the first break point of the match to go up 4-2 in a game where Ito double faulted to let his opponent stick around. Raonic then consolidated the break despite making errors of his own. A long return from Ito made it 5-2 for Raonic before the Canadian broke again to take the set.

Tatsuma Ito

Tatsuma Ito

The second frame is one Ito will want to forget in a hurry. Winning just 10 points and 38% of his first serves, it didn’t help the visitor that he Raonic fired eight aces and won both of his break points in a decidedly one-sided set 6-1 in Canada’s favour in just 23 minutes, according to Davis Cup statistics.

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Ito’s performance improved in the final set but not enough to pose any real threat to Raonic. Another untimely double fault from the Japanese player handed Raonic a 5-2 lead. Raonic then simply held his serve to win the match and give Canada a 1-0 lead.

Vasek Pospisil v. Kei Nishikori

Vasek Pospisil

Canda’s number two men’s singles player, Vasek Pospisil, has said all week that he feels he is ready to step up and challenge the top ranked names on the men’s tour.

On Friday, Pospisil certainly stayed close to world number four Kei Nishikori, but lost in three sets 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) 6-3, which evened up the competition at 1-1 between Canada and Japan.

Pospisil fended off two break points in the fifth game to go up 3-2 against Japan’s top player and most popular athlete (give or take Ichiro Suzuki). But on his next service game the Canadian couldn’t keep Nishikori from pouncing on his third break point of the match. That would be the only real difference between the two players in the first set as Nishikori triumphed 6-4.

Vasek Pospisil
Kei Nishikori

In the second, Pospisil was even better. He forced Nishikori to save two break points; and the Canadian won his first 19 first serve points taking his opponent to a tiebreak. However, it was there that he suffered three mini-breaks and the third of which handed Nishikori the set 7-5 on tiebreak when Pospisil hit an approach shot into the net.

Although the third set started well for Pospisil and the two players traded service games early on, Nishikori fired a devastating backhand winner to set up a break point in the sixth game, which he converted to take a 4-2 lead. Refusing to go quietly, Pospisil fought back for a break of his own, but failed to consolidate. That gave Nishikori the window he needed to serve out the match with a 6-3 third set win.

On Saturday, Pospisil should return to play in doubles for Canada with “Mr. Davis Cup” Daniel Nestor (4 p.m. ET on Sportsnet One). Regardless of the outcome in doubles, fans are now guaranteed one match on Sunday, which has the mouth-watering prospects of being the anticipated Raonic-Nishikori showdown in Vancouver.