Japan chose the ITC Utsubo Tennis Center in Osaka to host Bosnia/Herzegovina in their first meeting for a place in the qualifying matches for the Davis Cup Finals next February. Japan, who fell to Italy 3-1 in the World Group first round on home soil in Morioka in February, aims to maintain its five-year stay in the Davis Cup's top tier.
An almost certain goal in 2019, being Japan the second highest ranked nation in the Asia/Oceania zone: the three highest-ranked teams in the group among those not directly admitted will gain a berth to complete the 24-team roster in the first edition.
The 5,500 capacity venue played host to Japan’s 3-1 victory over Brazil and the 5-0 win over Ukraine in the World Group play-offs of the last two seasons. Will it be third time lucky for Japan, playing at home for the 14th time in its last 17 Davis Cup ties? Japan, who contested 9 consecutive home ties from July 2011 through to April 2014, finished runner-up in 1921, falling 5-0 to the USA in New York, in its best result ever.
Taro Daniel is Japan's highest-ranked singles player available to captain Satoshi Iwabuchi. The world No.70 is bidding to win his third live rubber for Japan this weekend, in his seventh Davis Cup tie. His only victories in live rubbers came in the decisive 5th rubber of Japan’s 3-2 victory against Colombia in the 2015 World Group play-offs (over Alejandro Falla) and in the first rubber of Japan’s 5-0 victory against Ukraine in the 2016 World Group play-offs (defeats Sergiy Stakhovsky).
After his loss to Italian No.1 Fabio Fognini in the first round earlier this year, he has a 3-6 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles. This year Daniel, whose parents used to be members of a tennis club in Japan where they had clay courts, advanced to his first semifinal and final en route to his maiden ATP World Tour title at Istanbul (d.
Chardy and Jaziri). In that tournament, he enjoyed more victories than in the entire 2017 season. Later, he also posted four wins to advance to Winston-Salem SF (l. to eventual champion Medvedev). On outdoor hardcourts, he earned his biggest win of career over 5-time champion Djokovic to reach the Indian Wells third-round last March as a qualifier.
Iwabuchi will likely pick Yoshihito Nishioka as the second singles player in the opening day. Nishioka, who won both his Davis Cup singles rubber on outdoor hardcourts, returned to action this year at the Challenger tournament in Playford after tearing thr left anterior cruciate ligament on 24 March 2017.
He fell to No. 380 in ATP Rankings on 9 April, his lowest since No. 382 on 21 April 2014, improved to 5-0 in ATP Challenger Tour finals by winning the title in Gimcheon, and advanced to his fifth ATP World Tour career quarter-final in Los Cabos (d.
Fritz, l. to eventual champion Fognini). Daniel leads 2-1 in the overall head to head record over the highest-ranked Bosnian singles player Mirza Basic, all dating back to 2015. The No.79 has never faced, instead, Nishioka. Basic remains the main weapon for Bosnian's captain Tomislav Brkic.
Bosnia/Herzegovina started playing Davis Cup in 1996 as an independent nation and progressed to the World Group play-offs for the first time in its history after defeating Slovakia 3-2 on clay in Bratislava. Basic proved the fifth-rubber hero for the visitors, defeating Jozef Kovalik in three sets to secure that milestone win for his nation.
Basic, the youngest Bosnian player to make his Davis Cup debut, owns the most overall victories among his compatriots (27), although Meride Zahirovic owns the most singles rubbers wins in Bosnia/Herzegovina history. He's likely to share all the live rubbers, in singles and doubles, with Tomislav Brkic.
Ranked No.240 in singles, Brkic is a consistent doubles specialist owning a 15-6 record in the competition (18-13 including singles) in 24 ties played. Bosnia/Herzegovina looks the favorite in the doubles rubber as Basic and Brkic were employed 18 times as a team in Davis Cup rubbers and claimed 13 victories.
In doubles, Japan should confirm the same duo selected to face Italy, Yasutaka Uchiyama, and Ben McLachlan. Uchiyama, who has never played a live singles rubber for Japan yet, has a 2-8 win-loss record in doubles, while Australian Open men’s doubles semifinalist McLachlan made just his second Davis Cup appearance that weekend, having made his debut in Japan’s World Group play-off victory against Brazil in September 2017. However, an eventual win from Bosnia/Herzegovina, depending hugely on Mirza Basic, looks against the odds.