TOKYO, JAPAN: Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori will take on Canadian No. 2 Peter Polansky on Friday in the opening day of play in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie at Ariake Coliseum. The host nation will be trying to advance to the second round for the first time ever.
Japan defeated Colombia in their World Group play-off last September to return to the top level of the competition following a one-year absence. Canada lost to Serbia in the semifinals last year.
Nishikori, ranked 18th in the world will play No. 135 Polansky indoors on the hardcourt at Ariake, the site of the tennis competition for the 2020 Olympics.
The second singles match on Friday will feature Japan No. 2 Go Soeda against Canada No. 1 Frank Dancevic.
Canada captain Martin Laurendeau was forced to shuffle his lineup just before Thursday's draw at the venue, when Canada's top-ranked player Milos Raonic (No. 11) had to pull out with a foot injury.
"If you lose a player ranked 11th in the world, it's not good for the team," said Laurendeau. "But our team is resilient. We go about preparing every day one match at a time. The guys we came with are ready to play."
Japan captain Minoru Ueda has selected Yuichi Sugita and Yasutaka Uchiyama to take on Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in Saturday's doubles. Pospisil had been expected to play one of the singles matches on Friday, but is still nursing an injury.
"The game plan has changed with Raonic being out," said Nishikori. "We were surprised when we heard the news. But the bottom line is it is still Japan against Canada and we have to be prepared."
Nishikori, who lost to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round at the Australian Open earlier this month, said despite Canada losing its top player, he has to retain his focus.
"My mission here is to win two singles matches so Japan can advance to the second round," he stated. "I'm just going to play my game and not worry about my opponent."
Polansky reflected on his previous meeting with Nishikori when assessing his chances.
"We played in Montreal last year and I lost a three-setter," he said. "It was a good match. I expect tomorrow will be tough."
Dancevic, ranked 119th, expressed confidence ahead of his battle with No. 140 Soeda.
"We have a similar ranking, so we should be evenly matched," he noted.
Soeda believes he is well prepared for the opening day of action in the home tie.
"I have done everything I can to get ready," he commented. "So I will go out tomorrow and show what I have. I think he [Dancevic] is stronger than his ranking reflects."
Ueda said his charges are motivated but know they will be in for a fight.
"It is not easy to play and win in the World Group," he said. "Each of our players knows the history and we hope can do it."
Raonic's absence from the tie drew just a minor reaction from Ueda.
"I'm not surprised," he stated. "This kind of thing can happen in Davis Cup play. It could happen to Japan as well."
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Kei Nishikori (JPN) v Peter Polansky (CAN)
R2: Go Soeda (JPN) v Frank Dancevic (CAN)
R3: Yuichi Sugita / Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) v Daniel Nestor / Vasek Pospisil (CAN)
R4: Kei Nishikori (JPN) v Frank Dancevic (CAN)
R5: Go Soeda (JPN) v Peter Polansky(CAN)
Frank Dancevic (CAN) - 30/01/2014
Kei Nishikori (JPN) - 30/01/2014