The Davis Cup is back this weekend and includes the defending champions Great Britain entertaining a young Japanese side at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham. The hosts are able to call upon the services of world number two Andy Murray, whilst Japan place most of their hopes in the 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori.
Great Britain Retain Their Davis Cup Winning Team
The number one ranked side Great Britain kick-off their attempt at retaining their Davis Cup crown when they host Japan this weekend. The hosts will again use a similar squad which was selected for the final back in November, where they famously defeated Belgium in Ghent to win the title for the first time in 79 years. Once again Andy Murray will be the key player for the British, with the number two player in the world back on the tennis court for the first time since becoming a father after also reaching the Australian Open final. Murray has a 27-2 record in Davis Cup singles rubbers, and has never lost a rubber in Great Britain so is a huge favourite to win all matches he is required in.
Dan Evans is to play the other singles rubber against the Japanese, after Kyle Edmund was withdrawn due to a back problem. The Birmingham-born man will play in front of his home crowd during the tie, and has only featured once for Britain since 2013 when he took on Australia in last year's semifinal. The twenty-five year-old has a 4-10 record in singles rubbers, and has only played once on the ATP Tour in 2016. That sole appearance was against Feliciano Lopez in Melbourne, where he was defeated in straight sets. Interestingly enough, Evans has beaten Nishikori in their one previous meeting at the US Open three years. He may need a similar performance to get anything out of their secheduled meeting here.
The two double specialists are once again Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot, with the latter expected to make way for the Andy Murray to join his brother in Saturday’s action. Jamie Murray has been in spectacular early season form, winning his first men’s doubles Grand Slam title in Melbourne with new partner Bruno Soares. The Murray brother’s participation together could be in doubt based on Friday’s singles rubbers, where if Britain were to take a 2-0 lead, Inglot may get his chance. The brothers have never lost together in the Davis Cup, and the two featured throughout last year’s successful campaign.
Japan Continue With Their Promising Youngsters
With an average age of 23, the Japan squad arrive in Birmingham not expected to win but to build some experience for later events. That said, they do have the world number six Kei Nishikori to call upon, and the 26-year-old has not lost a singles rubber since back in 2012 against Croatia. Nishikori’s Davis Cup record reads at 16-2, and also boasts a 2-0 record when occasionally used in doubles. He recently won his first title of the year in Memphis, along with going all the way to the last eight at the Australian Open, where he unfortunately ran into Novak Djokovic. He’s also the only player in the squad with any real experience on the ATP World Tour, combined with a win over Murray just two years ago.
Taro Daniel is the second highest ranked player for the Japan side, and recently secured a career-high ranking at 87. The 23-year-old has never won a Grand Slam match, and has only been successful in one out of four Davis Cup rubbers. He’s featuring consistently in main draws on the ATP tour for the first time, but has his lone win in 2016 came against Denis Istomin in Montpellier. Yoshihito Nishioka completes the potential singles players in the squad, however most of his success has come on the challenger tour. He has reached the quarterfinals in both Delray Beach and Memphis, after only playing one main draw match in 2015. His one Davis Cup experience came in doubles where he lost against Colombia last year alongside Yasutaka Uchiyama. This partnership is expected to be together in the doubles match, with Uchiyama holding a 2-4 negative record when appearing for his country. His main success has also been on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning two titles in nine finals.
What To Expect
If Japan have realistic hopes of securing a second win in the World Group, then Nishikori will need to deliver victories in both his singles rubbers. Even if he was to surprisingly win both, the Murray brothers are likely to prove too much for any pairing that the visiting side can throw at them, due to the British side holding a much more experienced edge in the top-level of men’s tennis.
Expect Andy Murray to comfortably give Great Britain an early lead by defeating Taro Daniel in the opening rubber. Nishikori is likely to be too much for Evans before the Murray brothers will combine successfully once again in the doubles, leading to Andy securing victory for the home side in a tight-match against Nishikori. Their meeting should be the highlight of the tie but Murray holds a 5-1 record when the pair have met before, so it’s near-impossible to see anything but a winning start to Great Britain’s title defence in the Davis Cup.
Prediction: Great Britain to win 3-1