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Canada and Japan locked at 1-1 on Opening Day of Davis Cup action

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The Canadian Davis Cup team is tied with Japan 1-1 following the opening day of action at the Davis Cup World Group first-round tie at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on the campus of University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The two No. 1 players secured victories for their respective countries on Friday, with world No. 6 Milos Raonic (Thornhill, Ont.) defeating Tatsuma Ito 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and world No. 4 Kei Nishikori beating Vasek Pospisil (Vancouver) 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3.

Raonic broke in the sixth game of the first set to take a 4-2 lead and claim firm control in his duel versus Ito. The 24-year-old blasted 19 aces, won 86 per cent of his first serve points, and never faced a single break point. He sewed up the opening victory for Canada in just 88 minutes.

“I think I played a solid match,” Raonic said. “It was good to start that way being the first match of the weekend; you don’t know how things are going to go. So I was very happy with how I played.”

In the second match of the day, Pospisil fell to Nishikori in a closely-fought three-setter which saw Canada’s No. 2 player have his chances. The second set was Pospisil’s best opportunity to climb his way into the match, as he earned two break points to Nishikori’s zero. But in the tiebreaker, Nishikori’s top-level experience came through and he won the important points. Though not much separated the two athletes statistically, Nishikori captured the triumph in two hours and 18 minutes.

“I had opportunities in the second set, I think I was unlucky to lose the second set,” Pospisil said. “I don’t think he had any break points and I had at least two. Some unlucky net cords came at bad times. If I win the second set, it’s a different match because the crowd gets into it, and suddenly maybe he’s feeling more pressure. So I think I was unlucky to lose the second set but he played well too. It was a tough match, and there are positives to take out of it.”

Canada is aiming to secure its place in the World Group quarter-finals for the second time in its history – first accomplished in 2013 with a 3-2 victory over Spain in Vancouver. The winner of this tie will earn a spot in the quarter-finals of this year’s competition and in the World Group for 2016, while the loser will need to participate in a World Group play-off in September in order to maintain its position in the elite 16-team category.

“The two No. 1s played respective to their ranking,” Canadian Davis Cup team captain Martin Laurendeau said. “Milos played a really good match, he was just too good. Kei competed well and came up with some shots and he dug out of those sets that went deep. So he came out on top and did his job as No. 1, but we knew the doubles was going to be a key factor and it’s shaped up that way.”

Similar to 2013, when Canada played in front of spirited crowds at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre en route to reaching the semifinals, the first day featured a large and loud environment.

“It’s a lot of fun to be playing in this atmosphere,” Raonic said. “It makes those tough moments a little bit easier and when you get going it carries you through. In the beginning it was very loud both ways and then I feel like the way I was playing it gave possibility for the Canadian crowd to uprise.”

Play will resume on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT with the doubles match, scheduled to feature Canadians Daniel Nestor (Toronto) and Pospisil against Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama. The team captains have until one hour before the match to change their nominations. The tie will conclude on Sunday with the two reverse singles matches, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. PT.