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Croatia to play Japan in Davis Cup tie

sports Updated: Feb 10, 2012 07:43 IST

AFP
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Croatia will field a relatively inexperienced team when they take on Japan in the first round of the Davis Cup tennis World Group this weekend.

One-time star player Mario Ancic, who led Croatia to victory with Ivan Ljubicic in 2005, announced his retirement last year following a series of illnesses and injuries.

Neither Ljubicic nor the country's current top player Marin Cilic were named for the best-of-five contest on the indoor hard court at the Bourbon Beans Dome in Miki, western Japan.

Japan will make their first appearance in the World Group since 1995 after beating India 4-1 in a play-off last year.

On Friday, Japanese number two Go Soeda will play Ivan Dodig in the opener, followed by the country's number one Kei Nishikori, who will play Ivo Karlovic.

The 22-year-old Japanese ace reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open to become the highest-ranked Japanese men's player at 20th in the world.

"In the last few months things have maybe turned around and maybe put the Japanese team in a slight favourites role with the way Kei played in Australia," said Croatian captain Zelijko Krajan.

"The other three players (are) proving themselves as top-100 players. I believe in my guys and I still believe that we are going to come out as the winners on Sunday."

Meanwhile Japanese captain Eiji Takeuchi said: "Go is playing the perfect game right now and Kei has had almost the same results as Karlovic, so it's going to be interesting, but they have big serves so we must focus on our returns."

On Friday
Go Soeda (JPN) vs Ivan Dodig (CRO)
Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs Ivo Karlovic (CRO)

On Saturday
Tatsuma Ito/Yuichi Sugita (JPN) vs Ivo Karlovic/Lovro Zovko (CRO)

On Sunday
Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs Ivan Dodig (CRO)
Go Soeda (JPN) vs Ivo Karlovic (CRO)