Canada settles for split with Japan in Davis Cup

Canada had to settle for a split on its first night of the Davis Cup World Group tie with Japan in Vancouver.

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Sixth-ranked Milos Raonic kicked off proceedings at a rowdy Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre Friday by rolling over Japan’s Tatsuma Ito 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 to get the party started.

But Japanese ace Kei Nishikori put a damper on any early celebration at the sold-out venue by taking down Vasek Pospisil of nearby Vernon, B.C. 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 to even up the best-of-five tie. Nishikori improved to 13-2 in Davis Cup play with the win over the hometown boy.

Thornhill’s Raonic made short work of Ito, finishing off the Tokyo native in just 87 minutes, to continue his mastery at the Davis Cup. Raonic, now 14-4 in singles at the event, fired 17 aces on the hard court — the venue on the campus of the University of British Columbia plays fast, just how he likes it — while Ito managed just two.

Canada will look to take the lead in the men’s doubles match Saturday, the only rubber of the day.

Doubles star Daniel Nestor, ranked fifth in the world, will team up with No. 15 Pospisil to face Japan’s Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama, neither of whom are ranked in the top 200-plus in doubles. There is a chance Nishiokori will be substituted into the doubles lineup Saturday, likely replacing Uchiyama.

In reverse singles Sunday, Raonic will meet fourth-ranked Nishikori while Pospisil will take on Ito in what could be the deciding rubber.

The winner advances to the World Group quarterfinals later this year.