VANCOUVER - Kei Nishikori ground out a five-set victory over one of his fiercest rivals, but it wasn't enough to get Japan past host Canada on Sunday in the first round of the Davis Cup World Group.
Vasek Pospisil provided the decisive victory in the second singles, beating Go Soeda 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to give Canada a 3-2 victory and a quarterfinal matchup with Belgium.
Nishikori, the world No. 4, sent the match down to the wire when he held on to top sixth-ranked Milos Raonic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Both Raonic and Nishikori won their singles matches on the opening day Friday and, after Pospisil and Daniel Nestor won a five-set thriller in the doubles over Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama on Saturday, it was do-or-die for Japan on the final day.
"He's a rival that I always have long, tough matches against," Nishikori said of Raonic, who had beaten the Japanese star earlier this year in Brisbane for his second win in six previous meetings.
In the final set, Nishikori made several mistakes and was broken in the sixth game. But he managed to bounce back from adversity and turn the tide.
He broke back in the ninth game, helped by a Raonic double fault, and took the 10th game without the loss of a point to clinch the victory.
"I definitely had to get two wins [in singles] for the team [to have a chance]," Nishikori said.
In the final match, the 62nd-ranked Pospisil rose to the occasion and rode 14 aces - including the final one on match point - to top No. 86 Soeda, who was chosen to play instead of Ta- tsuma Ito.
It was the first time Canada has beaten Japan in seven career Davis Cup meetings dating back to 1923. Japan won their tie in the same round last year 4-1 in Tokyo.