TOKYO, JAPAN: Victories by Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda in Sunday’s reverse singles rubbers ensured Japan rallied past Colombia 3-2 to triumph in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie at the Ariake Colosseum.
The win puts Japan back in the World Group for 2014 after it played this year in Asia/Oceania Zone Group I.
Japan’s No. 1 Nishikori defeated Colombia’s No. 1 Santiago Giraldo in straight sets 61 62 64 in the opener before a partisan crowd, while Soeda downed Alejandro Falla 46 64 63 63 in the dramatic final rubber.
Nishikori, ranked No. 12, once again relied on his powerful forehand and deep returns as he notched up a comprehensive victory over Giraldo, No. 85 in the world, to keep the host nation in the tie.
Japan’s No. 2 Soeda, ranked No. 131, then sprayed the court with winners from the baseline repeatedly against Colombian No. 2 Falla after dropping the opening set.
Falla, who has been out of action for three weeks due to injury, appeared to tire as the match wore on.
Japan captain Minoru Ueda was relieved after the hardfought battle.
"Colombia was a very tough team," he said. "We really had to raise our level. We showed we could do it. It was a great victory for us."
Nishikori came out very aggressively, moving Giraldo around the court with huge forehands and forced him into 19 errors in an opening set that lasted just 21 minutes. Nishikori broke in the second game and led 3-0 before the Colombian held serve for 3-1.
Giraldo, who suffered from peritonitis last year and a subsequent infection following surgery and has been slowly climbing back up the rankings, could not find the answer on this day. Nishikori continued the onslaught in the second set, breaking in the fifth and seventh games on the way to wrapping up the set in 33 minutes.
The Colombian, who has been ranked as high as 39th, fought hard but could not turn the tide. Nishikori broke to move ahead 4-3 and brought matters to a conclusion in one hour, 43 minutes.
Giraldo had 61 unforced errors to Nishikori's 31 in the loss.
"We were under pressure and I am the No. 1 player, so I had to win to lift the team spirit," commented Nishikori. "I tried to serve well today. I wanted to attack and make my rhythm quicker. The fast court here suits my game."
The 23-year-old Nishikori said he has been working on his servce recently.
"My serve was not good at the US Open," he noted. "I put in more time on it in practice. I also tried for quicker timing because we were playing indoors."
"Kei played very good today," said Giraldo. "The conditions were perfect for him. I was tired from my match with Soeda but did my best."
The crucial point in the final match came in the seventh game of the third set, after the players had split the first two sets.
Soeda broke to go up 4-3, held serve, then broke again to take the set 63.
With Soeda a point from going up 3-0 in the final set, Falla, ranked 93rd, dug in and fought back to break for 2-1.
The players stayed on serve until the eighth game, when Soeda broke for 5-3 when Falla double faulted. Soeda then closed it out on serve.
Soeda wept after the win which he called "the biggest of my career."
"I felt a lot pressure while waiting for my match," he recalled. "I tried not to have any negative thoughts.. I tried to stay positive."
Soeda said he was able to employ his strategy throughout the match.
"I just tried to remain aggressive and not fall into any type of defensive tactics," he said. "I wanted to keep the pressure on."
"Go increased his level as the match went on," stated Falla. "I fought the whole way, but this is the way it goes sometimes. His forehand was solid from the baseline today."
Colombia captain Mauricio Hadad reflected on the defeat.
"This is a tough loss for us. Nishikori played very well," he noted. "Soeda played better than Friday. We thought we would win one of the singles today."
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah gave Colombia a 2-1 lead with a straight sets 61 62 61 victory over Tatsuma Ito Yuichi Sugita in doubles on Saturday.
In Friday's opening singles, Nishikori defeated Alejandro Falla in straight sets 63 64 64 before Santiago Giraldo outlasted Go Soeda in five sets 64 36 75 36 61 in the second contest to level the tie.
Japan had returned to the top level for the first time in 27 years last year, but was unable to stay there following losses to Croatia and Israel.
Colombia was trying to earn a spot in the World Group for the first time.
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Minoru Ueda (JPN) - 15/09/2013
Go Soeda (JPN) - 15/09/2013
Kei Nishikori (JPN) - 15/09/2013