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Return Winners: the 2016 Great Britain & Japan Davis Cup tie
The two nations faced off for a chance to advance in the team competition.
Published Mar 07, 2020
Defending champions Great Britain faced Japan in the 2016 Davis Cup first round.
After decades of futility, Great Britain finally won its 1oth Davis Cup championship in 2015. Over the course of their title-winning campaign, Andy Murray put on a display for the ages as he became the third player to go 8-0 in singles over a year.
Kicking off their push for a repeat performance in 2016, the defending champions were drawn to face Japan in the first round. After dropping its opening tie in 2015, Japan—led by its top singles standout Kei Nishikori—was forced to the playoff round, where it defeated Colombia to rejoin the 2016 World Group.
Playing in Birmingham, England, one thing both squads had in common was that they were led by a top-10-caliber player in singles, while the No. 2 in that discipline was ranked well outside of the top 50. As expected, on the first day, Murray easily handled world No. 87 Taro Daniel in the opening rubber. Japan soon leveled the tie when Nishikori topped Daniel Evans—ranked 157 in the world, 151 spots behind him—in straight sets.
On the middle day of the tie, Andy Murray teamed up with his older brother Jamie to take on Yoshihito Nishioka and Yasutaka Uchiyama. Jamie Murray, ranked No. 2 in doubles after starting the season with his first men’s Grand Slam at the Australian Open, helped the home team take a 2-1 lead going into the reverse singles.
First up was the marquee matchup between Nishikori and world No. 2 Andy Murray. Going into the fourth rubber, Murray carried a 5-1 lead in their head-to-head encounters and the Scot grinded out a two-sets-to-love advantage in this match. Nishikori, with a physical baseline game similar to Murray’s, then took the next two to level the affair. In the fifth, though, Murray gained an early advantage and hung on for a 6-3 win to clinch the tie for Great Britain and send the nation on to the quarterfinals.
This was the first time Great Britain had to play a tie after winning the title the year before. The nation’s earlier victories came when the defending champion went automatically to the final the following year.
Nishikori dropped only his third career singles rubber against 20 wins during this tie.
The match between Nishikori and Murray took nearly five hours to complete, and was the longest of Murray’s career to this point.