Canada on verge of reaching Davis Cup quarters

Davis Cup day two saw Canada and Japan contest in doubles, where Canadian duo of Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil beat Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama in five sets 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

The win on Saturday in Vancouver means Canada takes a 2-1 lead, sets up Sunday’s marquee showdown between the host nation’s Milos Raonic and Japan’s Kei Nishikori, two of the best men’s singles players in the world.

Neither Soeda nor Uchiyama are ranked in the top 200 in men’s doubles. Nestor is a doubles legend with a world number five ranking and Pospisil (no. 15) is a Wimbledon men’s doubles champion. This was expected to be a mismatch.

Vasek Pospisil (left) and Daniel Nestor.

Vasek Pospisil (left) and Daniel Nestor.

“I think they played great, we just hung in there,” Nestor said of the resilience showed by the Japanese opponents before tipping his hat to the Canadian fans. “I want to thank the crowd, these guys are amazing,” the 42-year old Canadian legend said in his on-court interview.

In Davis Cup, players tend to find an extra level whilst representing their nation, which is what the Japanese visitors did throughout the afternoon. 

In the first set, Soeda/Uchiyama managed to earn an early break in the third game, but Nestor/Pospisil stormed back to take a 3-2 lead. Canadians broke again at 6-5 to take the set and all was well with the local contingent.

Japan (left) forced the higher ranked Canadian players to a fifth set in Vancouver.

Japan (left) forced the higher ranked Canadian players to a fifth set in Vancouver.

However, a poor showing on net points (3/11) in the first set caught up to Team Canada in the second, when they won just two points from 10 opportunities at the mesh. Broken twice, Nestor/Pospisil conceded the first set 6-2 to the visitors, who punched well above their weight, winning six of eight net points against much higher ranked opponents.

If that put a scare in to the Canadians, they responded accordingly, jumping ahead to a 3-0 lead in the third set with a break in the second game. Nestor in particular seemed elated at the improvement, pumping his fists and roaring to the crowd’s approval. Net-play improved, as did first serve points. A Pospisil ace ended the third 6-3 in Canada’s favour.

In the fourth set though, the tough times returned for the Canadian pair. In a role reversal of the previous set, it was Japan that went up 3-0 with a second-game break. Nestor/Pospisil couldn’t take the break point down 3-1. Another one arrived down 5-3, shortly after Nestor blasted a winner, but the Japanese duo recovered to take the set and force a fifth.

Soeda (left), congratulated by Uchiyama after the pair won a point in the first set.

Soeda (left), congratulated by Uchiyama after the pair won a point in the first set.

The teams traded service games to halfway through the decisive set, where Japan fought back from a break point to level at 3-3. In the next game Nestor recovered from a double fault to force a pair of service returns into the net and Canada stayed ahead on serve. It was then that Canada – up 4-3 – finally edged ahead for good, breaking Japan on love and winning the match with Pospisil on serve.

Following the match Pospisil praised Nestor for being “solid” throughout the match. Should Raonic-Nishikori end in Japan’s favour in Sunday’s first singles match, Pospisil – who played singles on Friday – will likely play the fifth and deciding rubber.

Daniel Nestor - "Mr. Davis Cup" - improved his tournament record to 32-9.

Daniel Nestor – “Mr. Davis Cup” – improved his tournament record to 32-9.

Asked if he could go three days in a row after playing a five set doubles match, Pospisil joked that Saturday was a “recovery day.”

Raonic, ranked sixth in the world, versus  Nishikori (no. 4) will start at 4 p.m. ET on Sportsnet One. The fifth match, if needed, will get underway at the conclusion of the mega-showdown between two of the world’s top ranked players.


Milos Raonic at 2015 Davis Cup versus Japan.

Milos Raonic at 2015 Davis Cup versus Japan.

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.

This also means after Saturday’s doubles match, a Raonic-Nishikori match on Sunday that every tennis fan was anticipating in Vancouver this week is a certainty. But first, both men gave their country some momentum on Friday.

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.

“I think I started off well from the beginning, I had (Ito) at love-30. He played well to get out of there, second game he played well.” Raonic said. It was shortly after that the affair changed drastically.

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.

RELATED: Raonic’s desire to win for Canada

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.

“It helps,” Raonic said of his the opening match win. “At the end of the day you have to win three, it doesn’t matter which ones.”

“It doesn’t matter which three (matches) are won”

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.

Kei Nishikori

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.

“It was up and downs in tiebreak, but I took some risks,” Nishikori said of the second set. “Even in the third set it was still a tight game, so I’m very happy to win today.”

Vasek Pospisil

Vasek Pospisil

On Saturday, Pospisil will return to play in doubles for Canada with “Mr. Davis Cup” Daniel Nestor (4 p.m. ET on Sportsnet One). Nishikori will also play for his country, second of three matches he expects to play this weekend.

Nishikori doesn’t believe he will be tired for doubles, and Pospisil agrees. “(Tonight’s match) will have an affect on him, it’ll have an affect on me equally,” Pospisil said.

“There won’t be any advantage or disadvantage, we both had two and a half hours of tennis under our belts today.”

Regardless of the outcome in doubles on Saturday, the mouth-watering Raonic-Nishikori showdown on Sunday will give one of these countries a chance to win the tie and advance to the quarterfinals of the elite World Group in this year’s Davis Cup.

UPDATE (Saturday 3 p.m. ET): Kei Nishikori will not be playing the doubles match for Japan.