Canada and Japan tied 1-1 in Davis Cup play

Canada's Milos Raonic, of Toronto, Ont., celebrates after defeating Japan's Tatsuma Ito in straight sets during a Davis Cup tennis world group first round singles match in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 6, 2015.
Canada's Milos Raonic, of Toronto, Ont., celebrates after defeating Japan's Tatsuma Ito in straight sets during a Davis Cup tennis world group first round singles match in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 6, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – Milos Raonic sent a message early.

Kei Nishikori responded with one of his own.

The first two matches of Canada’s Davis Cup tie with Japan went pretty much according to the script Friday as both No. 1 seeds won in convincing fashion to send the best-of-five World Group showdown into the weekend knotted 1-1.

Raonic dispatched Tatsuma Ito in straight sets to give Canada an early lead before Nishikori returned the favour against Vasek Pospisil in the evening.

“I think I played a solid match,” said Raonic, who won 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. “It was good to start that way. Being the first match of the weekend, you don’t know how things are going to go. I’m just very happy about the way I played.”

The hard-serving Raonic, ranked No. 6 in the world, dominated Ito from start to finish on the lightning-quick court at the University of British Columbia, finishing with 17 aces and 42 winners.

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With the first-round tie now a best-of-three affair, the 24-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., said it was nice to set the tone early.

“I think it carries through,” said Raonic, who cruised to victory in just 87 minutes. “I think it makes a difference, especially if you’re sort of waiting on what might be happening for a Sunday match. I think you sort of send a message across.”

READ MORE: Canada ready to take on Japan in Davis Cup

Nishikori, ranked No. 4 overall, had a bit more difficulty against Pospisil, but still showed his pedigree, especially in a second set tiebreak he trailed 2-0 and 5-4.

“Every set was close,” Nishikori said after his 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 win. “Especially the second set, he started playing better and he was serving better … I stayed tough. It was a little up and down in the tiebreak, but I took some risks.”

The 62nd-ranked Pospisil, who was playing in front of his hometown crowd, rued the missed chance to give his country a commanding 2-0 lead in the tie.

“I think I was unlucky to lose that second set,” said the 24-year-old. “If I win that second set it’s a different match because suddenly the crowd gets into it, maybe he’s feeling more pressure.”

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After Nishikori went up two sets, the players traded breaks in the third. Pospisil had a chance to draw even at 4-4, but instead double faulted to go down 5-3, and Nishikori finished things off with an ace to round a victory that took two hours 18 minutes.

“The two No. 1 (seeds) played respective to their ranking,” said Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. “Milos played a really good match, and Kei competed well and came up with some shots and dug out of those sets that went deep.”

Raonic broke the 85th-ranked Ito twice in the opening set after leading 3-2 and never really looked back before a partisan, flag-waving crowd at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

“It’s a lot of fun to be playing in this atmosphere. It helps,” said Raonic. “It makes those tough moments a little bit easier, and when you get going it carries you through.”

READ MORE: Tennis star Raonic wins Lionel Conacher Award

Already up a break, Raonic asserted his dominance leading 4-1 in the second with a love game to break Ito again before a service love game to take the set.

Ito, 26, showed some life early in the third, but Raonic secured his fifth and sixth break points en route to a ninth straight Davis Cup victory on home soil.

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“I want to succeed representing Canada,” said Raonic. “Davis Cup is the way we can show that every year and I think it’s the second biggest thing other than trying to succeed at the Olympics.”

The focus now shifts to Saturday’s doubles match before the reverse singles on Sunday that will include a mouth-watering tilt between and Nishikori.

Pospisil and Toronto’s Daniel Nestor are scheduled to meet Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama in doubles, but teams can substitute players up to an hour before a match.

Nishikori played three times when Japan beat an undermanned Canada at the same stage of the competition last year, and hosts expect the same this time around.

“I expect to see (Nishikori) playing doubles,” said Pospisil.


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