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June 28, 2017

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Japan advance to Davis Cup quarterfinals in anti-climax

TOKYO--Japan advanced Sunday to the Davis Cup quarterfinals for the first time under the modern format, albeit in anti-climactic fashion after Canada's Frank Dancevic retired from his match with Kei Nishikori.

Canada's injury jinx continued when Dancevic, already given little hope of upsetting Nishikori on his home court, tore a stomach muscle after being blitzed 6-2 in the first set and surrendering his serve at the start of the second.

After a medical time-out, Dancevic trudged over to Nishikori's chair to shake hands.

The victor almost apologetically acknowledged Japan's historic world group first-round win by ruffling his hair in embarrassment and offering a half-hearted fist pump to the crowd of 8,000.

Go Soeda thrashed Peter Polansky 6-1, 6-4 in the dead final rubber to complete a 4-1 rout over last year's semifinalists.

Canada were missing world number 11 Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil through injury, dramatically altering the dynamic of the tie.

Nishikori exudes an air of invincibility on the Tokyo hard court where he captured the 2012 Japan Open title and clinically won all three of his matches.

"It's a bit hard being overjoyed to win like that but to make history is unbelievable," Nishikori, the world number 18, told reporters.

"I always feel a little pressure to win both of my singles but to also help win the doubles makes it extra-special."

Nishikori stormed through the first set in 29 minutes, ripping carbon-copy backhand passes to break Dancevic in the third and fifth games before emphatically closing out the opening frame with an ace.

Minutes later it was all over.

"I pulled a stomach muscle on a serve," said a deflated Dancevic. "I had to be at 110 percent to have a chance against Kei. There was no way I could risk my career or take months off tour so I had to stop.

"The doubles yesterday made my body a little fragile and if it hadn't been the Davis Cup I wouldn't have stepped on court today, but we didn't have any options," added the 119th-ranked Dancevic. "We were down to our last legs."

Japan will host either holders the Czech Republic or the Netherlands at the same venue in April, when they will make their first Davis Cup quarterfinal appearance since the 16-nation world group format was established in 1981.

Nishikori, who pushed Rafael Nadal hard in a fourth-round loss at the Australian Open, beat Polansky 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in Friday's opening singles before partnering Yasutaka Uchiyama to a 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 doubles win over Dancevic and Daniel Nestor to give Japan a 2-1 lead.

Canada team captain Martin Laurendeau blamed defeat on bad luck, with talisman Raonic sidelined by an ankle injury and Pospisil's back trouble forcing him out also.

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