TOKYO, JAPAN: Yuichi Sugita will take on India's Somdev Devvarman in Friday's opening singles match at the Davis Cup BNP by Paribas World Group play-off beginning on Friday at Ariake Colosseum, as the host nation attempts to return to the top tier of the competition for the first time since 1985. The draw for the event was conducted Thursday morning at the venue.
Sugita, ranked 174th in the world, will play world No. 64 Devvarman on the hardcourt surface outdoors as Japan looks to build on its 4-1 victory over Uzbekistan in July in the Asia-Oceania Zone Group One second-round tie in Osaka.
Kei Nishikori, Japan's top-ranked male singles player at No. 55, will meet doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna in the second singles match on Friday.
India captain Shiv-Prakash Misra selected Mahesh Bhupathi and Vishnu Vardhan to take the court in doubles against Nishikori and Go Soeda on Saturday.
The Indian team is missing its biggest star in Leander Paes, who was injured during a mixed doubles match in the U.S. Open earlier this month. Paes, ranked eighth in doubles, hurt his back and was unable to make the trip to Japan.
"We will do our best without Leander," said Misra. "He is still in the United States receiving treatment for his injury."
Nishikori is also coming off an injured hip and back, but says he is back to full strength.
"My target is to win two matches," Nishikori said. "I'm physically fit and ready to play. I am one of the team members and am confident Japan is going to win."
Devvarman, who will battle Nishikori in reverse singles on Sunday, said his friendship with the Shimane native only goes so far.
"Kei is a good friend of mine," Devvarman said with a smile. "We played doubles together at Wimbledon. He is a very good player, who has already won a tour event. But we are here to win. This should be a good tie."
Japan captain Eiji Takeuchi recognizes the opportunity his team has this weekend, despite having lost 18 of its 21 previous matches against India.
"This is a good chance for us with a home playoff," Takeuchi noted. "I trust these players and there is a good mood in the team. The key is if the players trust themselves."
Takeuchi singled out Sugita for his recent efforts in training.
"Sugita has been playing well the last two weeks, so I have confidence in him."
India, which lost to Serbia in their first round World Group tie, recognizes the task facing it as it attempts to win away from home.
"Both teams have some good talent in the singles, so this will be a good competition." Bopanna stated. India beat Japan 3-2 in their last meeting in 2008.
"I have trained very hard and am ready to go," said Soeda. "We have a much stronger team than the last time we faced India."
The 21-year-old Nishikori is cleary focused on trying to get his nation back into the World Group after a 26-year absence..
"I have big motivation and am excited to play in this playoff," he commented. "We will try to make our dream happen."
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Yuichi Sugita (JPN) v Somdev Devvarman (IND)
R2: Kei Nishikori (JPN) v Rohan Bopanna (IND)
R3: Kei Nishikori / Go Soeda (JPN) v Mahesh Bhupathi / Vishnu Vardhan (IND)
R4: Kei Nishikori (JPN) v Somdev Devvarman (IND)
R5: Yuichi Sugita (JPN) v Rohan Bopanna (IND)
Live scores and live streaming of this tie will be available on the Davis Cup website, and live radio commentary of the World Group semifinals will also be broadcast.
Kei Nishikori (JPN) - 15/09/2011
Captain Shiv-Prakash Misra (IND) - 15/09/2011