Tennis: Nishikori downs Evans to bring Japan level with Britain

Nishikori plays against Great Britain's Daniel Evans.
Nishikori plays against Great Britain's Daniel Evans.PHOTO: AFP

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) - 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 Feb 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.