Britain ends 28-year absence from Davis Cup quarters
LONDON: Britain beat the United States to reach the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1986 on Sunday as Japan finished off an injury-hit Canada to set up a maiden appearance in the last eight.
They joined holders Czech Republic, Italy and Kazakhstan as Sunday's other qualifiers and Switzerland, Germany and France, who booked their places in the World Group last eight with a day to spare.
Britain, making their return to the World Group after a five-year absence, came into Sunday needing a solitary victory in the singles, but knowing their best chance of success rested with Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who was facing the big-serving Sam Querrey.
After claiming the first set on a tiebreak, world number six Murray was forced to dig in against his 49th-ranked opponent and lost the second, but went through the gears to stamp his authority in the third before comfortably closing out a 7-6(5) 6-7(3) 6-1 6-3 win.
The result opened an unassailable 3-1 lead in the tie and completed Britain's first win over the U.S. since 1935.
Britain will now face Italy, who advanced when Fabio Fognini overcame Argentina's Carlos Berlocq 7-6(5) 4-6 6-1 6-4 to give them a winning 3-1 lead.
"He came out playing extremely aggressively, especially on my serve. I changed tactics at the beginning of the third set and I was able to dictate many of the points after that. So that change of tactics helped," Murray told the BBC.
"You have a responsibility to your team mates to play well, but I also have a lot of experience in the Davis Cup and the slams, so you know how to deal with it relatively well."
While Murray will accept the plaudits for getting the job done, the victory was built on the 175th-ranked James Ward's surprise win over Querrey on Friday.
That put them 2-0 ahead and meant their destiny was in the hands of two-time grand slam winner Murray.
Japan began Sunday's action 2-1 ahead and also needing one win the reverse singles to progress.
They were handed victory when Canada's Frank Dancevic retired with injury when trailing 6-2 1-0 to Japanese number one Kei Nishikori, surrendering the tie in the first meeting of the countries since 1938.
At Tokyo's Ariake Coliseum, Japan's Nishikori pocketed the first set in 29 minutes and broke Dancevic in the first game of the second when the world number 119 took an injury timeout but could not continue because of a stomach muscle injury.
"The pressure is always on me to win both singles matches," said Nishikori, who won his opening match against Peter Polansky on Friday before teaming up with Yasutaka Uchiyama to claim Saturday's doubles.
"This time I was able to help win three matches.
"The quarter-finals was our goal after getting back in the World Group. To do it in the first year is very rewarding."
Back in World Group after a one-year absence, Japan now have a perfect 6-0 Davis Cup record against last year's semi-finalists, who were laid low by a spate of injuries.
Canada's top-ranked player Milos Raonic withdrew on Thursday with a foot injury he sustained at last month's Australian Open and world number 25 Vasek Pospisil also missed Saturday's doubles with an injury he picked up at Melbourne Park.
Japan will host cup holders Czech Republic in the quarter-finals in April after they eased into the next round with a 3-2 win over the Netherlands.
Two months after clinching the title, the Czechs were taken to a final day by the Dutch, but comfortably booked their place in the next round when Tomas Berdych proved too classy an opponent for Thiemo De Bakker.
The world number seven secured a 6-1 6-4 6-3 victory to move the Czech into a 3-1 lead before Igor Sijsling beat Lukas Rosol in the dead rubber.
"We really wanted to win this one," Berdych, who completed a hat-trick of wins, said.
"Always the first round is the cutting edge of success; (losing) means playing off to stay in the World Group, which could be extremely difficult. But we passed that, we won the first one."
Kazakhstan secured a tie against Switzerland in the next round with a 3-2 victory over Belgium in Astana.
Belgium's David Goffin twice came back from a set down to level the tie at 2-2 with a five-set win over Mikhail Kukushkin, before Andrey Golubev claimed the decider 6-2 6-3 6-1 over Ruben Bemelmans.
The other quarter-final will pit France against Germany.