Tennis: Nishikori helps Japan return to Davis Cup elite with 3-0 win over Ukraine

TOKYO (AFP) - Kei Nishikori teamed up with Yuichi Sugita in a dominant doubles victory, as Japan's men's tennis team completed a 3-0 defeat of Ukraine to return to the Davis Cup's top table Saturday.

The world No. 5 looked sharp as the Japanese pair ran out easy 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 winners over Artem Smirnov and Sergiy Stakhovsky in Osaka, to give the home side an unassailable lead in the World Group play-off with only two rubbers remaining.

Nishikori sat out Friday's opening singles following his exertions over the summer, as Taro Daniel and Yoshihito Nishioka put Japan in firm control of the tie.

But his presence was felt in the doubles as the Japanese ran riot, giving Sugita the perfect present ahead of his 28th birthday on Sunday, when the final two matches will now be abbreviated dead rubbers.

"The return was key for us today," said Nishikori, who won bronze in singles at the Rio Olympics before reaching the US Open semi-finals earlier this month.

"We had never played together before and we had to change some things during the match," he added.

"Neither of us are the best net players but our ground strokes did the job. The second set we were on fire - we made a lot of returns and they were struggling with their service."