Kei Nishikori levelled the Davis Cup tie between Great Britain and Japan after recording a straight sets win (6-3 7-5 7-6 (7-3)) over Dan Evans at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham. The 26-year-old star ensured the tie would be even going into Saturday's all-important doubles match after beating Evans.
Nishikori, who is the only male Japanese tennis player ever to be ranked inside the top 10, justified his status as a heavy pre-match favourite with an assured performance in front of a vocal British crowd. He took the opening set by six games to three, despite spurning five set points en-route.
The second proved to be a much more competitive affair, however, with Nishikori making some unnecessary errors and allowing his opponent back into the contest. But Evans, who was a late replacement for the injured Kyle Edmund, was not able to take advantage of the opportunities he was presented with, and the Japanese star won a closely-contested second set by seven games to five.
Nishikori continued with the momentum he had gained early in the third set, breaking Evans' serve to record an early lead and suggest the contest would be over in a hurry. But to Evans' credit, he showed plenty of fight to force himself back into the set, recording back-to-back breaks of serve.
However, the Brit was unable to sustain that quality and even though he managed to survive a match point, Evans was ultimately defeated 7-3 in the tiebreak.
"My performance level was good. Obviously it was a tough match. He just played too good for me," Evans explained in the post-match press conference. "I'm training to be in the top 100 and I'm going in the right way at the minute. Hopefully it continues, but I've got to win the matches to get there."
The result leaves the tie delicately poised at 1-1, following Andy Murray's straight sets win earlier in the day. The scoreline means much could depend on the outcome of the doubles match on Saturday (5 March).