Nishikori downs Evans to bring Japan level with Britain

Nishikori suffered a miserable straight sets loss to Evans in the pair's only previous meeting in the US Open first round in 2013.

Kei Nishikori shakes hands with Dan Evans afer winning their match.   -  Reuters

Lleyton Hewitt (top) and John Peers in action against Mike Bryan and Bob Bryan of USA.   -  AP

Kei Nishikori avenged one of the worst defeats of his career as the Japanese star defeated Dan Evans 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) to bring his country level with Great Britain in their Davis Cup clash on Friday. Nishikori suffered a miserable straight sets loss to Evans in the pair's only previous meeting in the US Open first round in 2013.

But the world number six made amends as he dismissed Evans in the Briton's hometown of Birmingham to take the second singles rubber after Andy Murray got the holders' Davis Cup defence off to the best possible start with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 win over Taro Daniel.

Evans, only in the team after Kyle Edmund suffered a back injury on Wednesday, has played some of his best tennis in Davis Cup, but he couldn't find a way to unsettle the relentless Nishikori in the world group first round tie. Evans had 0-40 in the seventh game of the second set, but failed to break and then saved two set points only to give it away with a missed volley and double fault.

In the third set he fought back from 2-0 down to twice lead by a break, much to the delight of the noisy crowd, but could not hold on to his own serve. He dug deep to save a match point and take it to a tie-break but slipped behind early on and could not recover, blasting a final forehand wide after two hours and 44 minutes.

Earlier, world number two Murray had cruised through his first match since losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final. The Scot had spent time with new daughter Sophia, born on February 7, and wife Kim Sears and seemed refreshed by his brief time as a father.

"The last few weeks have been the best of my life, it's been really, really special," he told the BBC. "It's been tough the last few days being away from her (new daughter Sophia) for the first time. It had to happen at some time. It's a pleasure to come and represent my country though."

He added: "The second set was tough, lot of close games.... I was getting a little out of breath but I played a good match, served well, missed a few second serves but the first serve went extremely well so it was a nice start."

Murray and captain Leon Smith must now decide whether he plays doubles alongside his brother Jamie, which proved a winning combination three times last year, or whether Jamie partners Dom Inglot. The Murray brothers inspired Britain to their first Davis triumph in 79 years with victory over Belgium in Ghent in November.

If Britain beat Japan they will face either Kazakhstan or world number one Djokovic's Serbia in the next round.

Hewitt makes valiant comeback

The crack Bob and Mike Bryan doubles combination gave the United States a crucial edge in their Davis Cup World Group tie with a thrilling five-set win over the Lleyton Hewitt-inspired Australians at Kooyong on Saturday. The 16-time Grand Slam and London Olympics doubles champions looked to be cruising to victory, breezing through the opening two sets before Hewitt and debutant John Peers forced a fifth set.

But the telepathic American twins proved too strong in the deciding set, winning 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours, 30 minutes to give their team a vital 2-1 lead in the best-of-five rubber tie.

Jim Courier's Americans can wrap up the first-round tie on Kooyong's grass court with just one more victory in Sunday's reverse singles through their top-rated John Isner - who faces Australia's Bernard Tomic - or Jack Sock.





"It's going to be an exciting day for sure, Bernie played awfully well yesterday, but so did John," US captain Courier said. "Hopefully, John has been a little fresher than Bernie given he only played three sets. But it's going to be exciting, the crowd's going to be jacked up. We're going to be ready for a fifth match obviously too, and at this stage we don't know necessarily if it's going to be Sam (Groth) or Lleyton playing in that fifth."

Hewitt ended his short-lived retirement to play in his 42nd Davis Cup tie, replacing Groth, and the gamble looked like paying off as he and Peers seized the momentum and took the match into a fifth set. But the Bryans finished clinically, breaking Peers' opening service game to lead 2-0 and then rolled through the final set in just 26 minutes.

It took the accomplished Bryan brothers' record in the Davis Cup team competition to 24-4 in the doubles since their debut for their country in 2003. "It was a great atmosphere. Obviously Lleyton being on the court even notched it up a level," Bob Bryan said. "When they won the fourth it was pretty darn loud and I just thought we did a great job of regrouping and we even went to a new level that we haven't even found in a year."

They targeted 35-year-old Hewitt early in the match and broke his service twice to lead two sets to love. But the big-hearted Australian legend inspired a tenacious comeback with the impressive newcomer Peers to ignite the home crowd and give the Australians a whiff of an upset win.

However, the Bryans regained control and the momentum to win on their fourth match point on left-handed Bob Bryan's dominant serve. "It was more about keeping it going and keep holding our serves and wait for that small opportunity to try and get a break and we didn't doubt ourselves at any stage," Hewitt said.

"To our credit we hung in there and gave ourselves at least a shot in the end. We made the decision last night. Just sharing the workload really. That was the determining factor."

Australia's Tomic will attempt to keep the home tie alive when he takes on world number 11 Isner in the first of the reverse singles. "We need Bernie to win, so it's pretty simple at the moment. That's our main focus," Hewitt said. "He's our number one player, he's the leader of the team and he played awfully well yesterday and we're going to need that again out of him tomorrow."

Hewitt will then have a big decision to make as to whether he plays Groth, who faded away in straight sets to Isner on Friday, or put himself forward in the potential tie-deciding singles match against Sock.

Results:

Great Britain 1 Japan 1 Andy Murray bt Taro Daniel 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. Kei Nishikori bt Dan Evans 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3).

Serbia 1 Kazakhstan 1 Novak Djokovic bt Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. Mikhail Kukushkin bt Viktor Troicki 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.

Poland 0 Argentina 2 Guido Pella bt Michal Przysiezny 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5). Leonardo Mayer bt Hubert Hurkacz 2-6, 6-7 (3-7), 2-6.

Australia 1 United States 2 John Isner bt Sam Groth 7-6 (7-2), 6-2, 6-2. Bernard Tomic bt Jack Sock 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Mike Bryan/Bob Bryan bt Lleyton Hewitt/John Peers 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.