By Ros Satar

  • Kei Nishikori def. Dan Evans 6-3 7-5 7-6(3)
  • Nishikori and Andy Murray may be candidates for the often crucial doubles rubber.

BIRMINGHAM, UK – Kei Nishikori put Japan level with hosts Great Britain with a hard fought straight sets win over Dan Evans 6-3 7-5 7-6(3).

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Evans, playing in front of a home crowd kept up with Nishikori and pushed the world No. 6 for almost two and three-quarter hours as he sought to put Great Britain 2-0 ahead at the close of the first day.

Evans, who was already part of the named squad and came into the side when Kyle Edmund withdrew with a back niggle had a win over the Japanese player when he made his run to the third round of the US Open in 2013.

Since then, however their fortunes have taken very different turns. Nishikori would go on to make the US Open final the next year, while Evans would crash out in the first round of qualification, and last year fell as low as No. 772 last May before turning his fortunes around and climbing back up to No, 157.

The local man broke straight back after losing his serve mid-way through the first set, but Nishikori had the bit between his teeth, breaking once more and then again at the end of the set – albeit not before Evans had saved three set points.

The second set was more competitive, with both pushing at break point opportunities. Once again Evans worked hard to stave off set points as Nishikori broke to take the second set.

The final set was no less hard fought. Nishikori broke early, only for Evans to break him straight back. It felt as though the tide was turning Evans’ way, as the pair traded breaks for four games before Evans hung on, even saving a match point before Evans forced a tie-break.

Nishikori nudged ahead with three match points, breaking Evans once more to level the tie.

Evans was a man of very few words after the match, acknowledging that Nishikori had just been too good for him, but praising the home crowd and the atmosphere.

It will be all eyes on Nishikori and indeed (Andy) Murray tomorrow as both have a habit of doubling up (no pun intended).

GB captain Leon Smith said: “It just depends how he feels. When we get back we’ll have a conversation about it and then, you know, hopefully he feels good. But the good thing is, honestly even if he doesn’t want to play we’ve got a very very good guy in Dom Inglot ready to go as well. So I’m quite relaxed about it.”

It throws up an intriguing prospect though, pushing two Top 10 players to play three times in a weekend – and will certainly give the crowd their money’s worth.

The team nominations do not have to be made until 1pm, and play begins at 2pm on Saturday.

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