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Davis Cup: Canada - Japan locked at 1-1

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The Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie between Canada and Japan is tied 1-1 after the opening day of play. With world No. 11 Milos Raonic out of the tie due to an ankle injury and world No. 25 Vasek Pospisil not quite ready to play singles after a back injury, it was world No. 119 Frank Dancevic and world No. 135 Peter Polansky who answered the call for the Canadian Davis Cup team on Friday. Polansky started the day with a valiant effort against world No. 18 Kei Nishikori but fell 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 while Dancevic then evened the score with a strong win against world No. 140 Go Soeda 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-1. The tie is being played on an indoor hard court at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, Japan.

The first set of the day was one of shifting momentum as Nishikori jumped out to a 2-0 lead but Polansky came back to win four straight games and go up a break. Nishikori then took the control back, claiming the next four games and the set. Nishikori increased his level even further in the second and third sets, running Polansky all over the court with his defensive play. While Polansky fought for every point, Nishikori got the extra break in both sets to seal the match.

“I think we both played really well today and there weren’t too many lapses of focus,” said Polansky. “The difference was he played a bit better on some of the bigger points. He converted more break points than I did and we had a lot of long rallies which he did better on as well. You never want to let your team and your country down so it is disappointing but this team has more depth than it has ever had before and we have a lot of confidence in each other to be able to win this.”

In the second match, Soeda came out firing on all cylinders to go up a quick break but Dancevic soon hit his stride and won the final five games of the first set to take the early lead. The second set was evenly-matched as both players held serve through to a tiebreak where Dancevic fed off the small but noisy Canadian crowd to up his game and put Soeda on the ropes. Dancevic carried that dominance into the third to close it out and give Canada a much needed point.

"I was really happy with my performance today," said Dancevic. "He started off really well and it made me focus more to get back into it. As the match went on I got more and more confidence and was able to finish really strong. The Canadian crowd was great and they really motivated me and kept me in the zone today. The team and bench also got behind me and that little bit of extra emotion to get going again makes a difference."

The series now becomes a best-of three affair with Saturday’s doubles match acting as a swing point for both teams.

"It's 1-1 and both No.1 players did their job," said Laurendeau. "It's a big point for us especially after we lost Milos so we are happy with today. We always like to savour the win a little bit but then we will regroup and focus on doubles tomorrow which is always a critical point in the tie."

Play resumes on Saturday, February 1 at 1 p.m. local time (Friday, January 31 at 11 p.m. ET) with the doubles match. The current scheduled lineup will pit Daniel Nestor and Pospisil against Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama for the crucial point. Sunday will then see the reverse singles with Dancevic playing Nishikori and Polansky facing-off against Soeda in what could potentially be the deciding fifth rubber. The captains of both teams have the ability to substitute their players up to an hour prior to the start of the match.

Canada is currently ranked No. 7 on the ITF Davis Cup Nations Ranking while Japan sits at No. 12. Japan owns a 5-0 record against Canada in Davis Cup action, but the two countries have not played each other since 1938.

The winner of this tie will move on to the quarter-finals in April versus the victor of the first-round tie between Czech Republic and the Netherlands. The losing nation will have to play a World Group play-off tie in September to retain their spot in the top level of the competition.