Davis Cup: Japan, Italy all square after epic day

Fabio Fognini of Italy plays a backhand in his singles match against Taro Daniel of Japan during day one of the Davis Cup World Group first round.   -  Getty Images

Japan and Italy were locked at one rubber apiece on Friday after a thrilling first day in their Davis Cup clash, with both singles matches going the full five sets.

On paper, Japan always looked likely to struggle without talisman Kei Nishikori, who is just returning from a wrist injury that had sidelined him for five months.

Read: Australia, Germany share spoils on day one

But Taro Daniel, ranked a lowly 100 in the world in singles, put up a brave fight against the much higher ranked Fabio Fognini in a marathon first match in the compact Morioka Takaya Arena.

The Italian, now ranked 22 in the world, went two sets to one down after a remarkable comeback from Daniel in the third set from 4-2 down.

But the 30-year-old, who has five ATP titles under his belt, showed his experience to clinch the last two sets for a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win to get former Davis Cup champion Italy off to a flying start after a gruelling four hours.

The second match pitted world number 41 Yuichi Sugita against veteran Andreas Seppi, now ranked 78, in what turned out to be a thrilling rollercoaster of a match.

Sugita looked to have the match sewn up at 4-2 up in the deciding fifth set and had break points to take a 5-2 lead with his serve to come.

But the 33-year-old Seppi, once a top-20 player, clung on to hold his serve and then secured a break of his own, taking the match to a nailbiting climax.

Seppi had a match point on the Sugita serve at 6-5 but the Japanese player saved it and took the match into a tie-break.

Sugita raced into a 3-0 lead in the tie-break and despite brilliant retrieving from Seppi, closed out the match to rapturous applause from the home fans 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-1) after three and a half hours.

Saturday's doubles sees Yasutaka Uchiyama and New Zealand-born Ben Mclachlan take on Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi, as both teams try to grasp the initiative in the tie.

Japan is looking to reach the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup for only the second time after Nishikori helped it reach the last eight in 2014.

Italy was champion back in 1976 and has finished runner-up on six occasions.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :