Photo: Takeo TanumaThe Japanese team
The Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round action came to an end on Sunday as Japan recorded a first ever victory in the top rung of the competition, while Great Britain reached the quarterfinal for the first time since 1986.
Kei Nishikori led the charge for the hosts in Tokyo as he faced Frank Dancevic in the opening rubber of the day with a 2-1 lead in hand. The world No. 18 took the opening set comfortably before Dancevic was unfortunately forced to retire with an abdominal strain and hand a place in the next round to Japan.
It was a first victory at this level for the Japanese, who were playing in front of a rightly delighted sell-out crowd on the final day. The tie was rounded out with a victory for Go Soeda over Peter Polansky as he extended the final score to 4-1.
In San Diego, Andy Murray had the same chance to seal victory in the fourth rubber and prevent a potentially nerve wrecking finale.
Sam Querrey stood in the way and the big-serving American looked in no mood to simply roll over and hand the victory to the visitors as he pushed the first two sets to tiebreaks in which he lost the first but took the next to level the match.
The world No. 6 stepped up his game following the loss of the second set, however, and raced to take the third set and earn an early break in the fourth. Despite having to save a break point when serving for the match Murray eventually completed a 76(5) 67(3) 61 63 victory and send the British into the quarterfinals.
Waiting for them in the next round is Italy who wrapped up victory in Argentina thanks to Fabio Fognini who outlasted Carlos Berlocq, 76(5) 46 61 64. They will now have choice of venue for the tie against Great Britain as they look for a first semifinal appearance since 1998 when they finished runners-up.
In the other ties decided on the final day Tomas Berdych defeated Thiemo de Bakker to put the defending champions safely through the first round while Kazakhstan and Belguim was decided in the final rubber after David Goffin had forced a decider. There was no dream comeback for his nation, who had trailed 2-0 after the first day, as Andrey Golubev romped to victory against Ruben Bemelmans.
Germany, Switzerland and France had already booked their places in the last eight of the competition with the next round to be played over the weekend of 4-6 April.
For this weekend’s losing nations they must now defend their position in the World Group play-offs in September when they will be joined by eight successful nations from the Zone Groups for the right to remain in the top tier for 2015.
You can view the full draw stories for this weekend’s ties by clicking the relevant tie below:
World Group first round
Czech Republic 3-2 Netherlands
Japan 4-1 Canada
Germany 4-1 Spain
France 5-0 Australia
USA 1-3 Great Britain
Argentina 1-3 Italy
Kazakhstan 3-2 Belgium
Serbia 2-3 Switzerland