Japan, Australia up 2-0 in Davis Cup World Group playoffs
Japan and Australia took 2-0 leads in their Davis Cup World Group playoffs on Friday, while Rafael Nadal hoped to lead Spain back into the World Group in its match against India.
In need of victory against Ukraine to retain its place in the World Group next year, Japan opted to rest world No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the opening singles, and the decision paid off in Tokyo.
Taro Daniel defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1, and Yoshihito Nishioka gave the hosts a commanding lead by topping Illya Marchenko 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
Stakhovsky, who had 13 aces, was a last-minute replacement for Artem Smirnov, who pulled out after feeling ill.
Nishikori will partner with Yuichi Sugita to take on Stakhovsky and Danylo Kalenichenko in doubles on Saturday, when Japan can seal the tie.
Spain, led by Nadal, played its World Group playoff later Friday in New Delhi.
In Sydney, Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic had straight-set singles victories against Slovakia.
Kyrgios, Australia's No. 1 player, opened with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Andrej Martin. Tomic beat Jozef Kovalik 7-6 (5) 6-4, 6-4.
Sam Groth and John Peers will try to clinch the tie for Australia on Saturday when they play Martin and Igor Zelenay.
The winner will compete in the 16-team World Group in 2017. Australia is trying to make it for a fourth straight year, and Slovakia for the first time since 2006.
Slovakia is playing without its two top-ranked singles players, No.31 Martin Klizan and No.102 Lukas Lacko, due to injuries.
Australia has won the Davis Cup 28 times – second only to the United States' 32 – but hasn't captured the trophy since 2003, its longest drought since before World War II. Australia lost to the U.S. in the World Group first round this year.