TOKYO, Japan: Japan finds itself in uncharted waters following a 4-1 victory over injury-hit Canada in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first-round tie over the weekend.
The win puts Japan through to the quarterfinals in the World Group for the first time ever. Japan will host the Czech Republic in Tokyo April 4-6 following its triumph over the Netherlands.
The defeat for Canada means it will play next in the World Group play-offs in September.
Japan clinched the tie on Sunday when Canadian No. 1 Frank Dancevic was forced to default his reverse singles match against Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori due to injury.
Nishikori was leading 62 1-0 indoors on the hard court at Ariake Coliseum when the match was halted.
Japan No. 2 Go Soeda downed Canada No. 2 Peter Polansky 61 64 in a three-set dead rubber to provide the final margin of victory for the hosts.
Dancevic's injury was the final straw for a Canadian team that was forced to play without its top-ranked player, Milos Raonic, due to a foot injury and Vasek Pospisil who was sidelined with a back ailment. Both Raonic and Pospisil were hurt at the Australian Open last month.
Japan captain Minoru Ueda was philosophical after the win.
"If Canada's No. 1 and No. 2 players had been healthy, the result could have been different," he said. "What I learned from this tie is how important the condition of the team is."
When asked what the significance of the historic win was for Japan, Ueda indicated that time will tell.
"There is a big meaning in making the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup," he commented. "I think it will be seen in the next round when the players have to step it up to the next level."
Dancevic felt helpless after suffering his injury.
"I pulled a stomach muscle. I hurt it on a serve in the second set," he stated. "There was no way I could continue against a player like Kei in that condition."
Canada's lone win in the tie came when Dancevic beat Soeda in straight sets on Friday.
Nishikori factored in all three Japan victories in the tie. He won his opening singles match on Friday against Polansky in straight sets. He then teamed up with Yasutaka Uchiyama for a four-set victory in doubles over Dancevic and Daniel Nestor on Sunday.
"The pressure is always on me to win both singles matches," Nishikori noted. "This time I was able to help win three matches."
Ueda saluted Nishikori for his crucial role in Japan's success.
"I trust Kei," he said. "I think his skill level is the same as No. 1 players in other countries."
Canada captain Martin Laurendeau bemoaned the bad luck that befell his squad.
"You don't prepare for these kind of weekends. It just happens," he said. "We were really looking forward to this tie. Some of the bodies just fell apart."
Laurendeau recognised that there are many factors involved in Davis Cup.
"You need singles, you need doubles," he said. "A lot of elements have to fall in place to win in the World Group. Last year they did."
Canada lost to Serbia 3-2 in the semifinals last fall.
The victory gives Japan a 6-0 record all-time against Canada in Davis Cup play. The meeting was the first between the two nations since 1938.