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Nishikori's Davis Cup Homecoming

Nishikori© Kei NishikoriKei Nishikori gets in his first practice on the Davis Cup court.

When Japan made its last appearance in the Davis Cup World Group back in 1985, Kei Nishikori hadn’t even been born yet.

Beginning Friday in Hyogo, hopes will rest on the 22 year old to lead Japan into the Davis Cup quarter-finals when they host 2005 champion Croatia.

“It’s always pressure, it’s a different feeling than other tournaments,” Nishikori admitted on Davis Cup Radio. “Hopefully I win two matches and I don’t know if I’m going to play doubles, but I think the team needs my two wins.”

The tie will be a homecoming for Nishikori, who plays his first match in Japan since becoming the country’s highest-ranked male player in the Open Era. He surpassed Shuzo Matsuoka’s rankings record of No. 46 in October, and continued his climb in the South African Airways ATP Rankings in 2012, breaking into the Top 20 following his run to the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Read 'Counting On Kei' In DEUCE

Nishikori, who was just two years old when Matsuoka reached his career-high ranking, hoped his recent success would also inspire future generations. “Hopefully people, especially kids, start playing tennis,” he said during Melbourne. “But first of all I have to play well and I have to give them good news. If that helps Japan, I'm really happy.”

Japan finished runner-up to Australia in the 1921 Davis Cup final, but will be playing in the World Group for just the third time since the current Davis Cup format - featuring 16 nations in the top tier - was introduced in 1981.

The nation earned its place in the World Group with a 4-1 win over India in the playoffs last September, with Nishikori clinching the tie with victories in his two singles matches.

“It means a lot,” Nishikori said about Japan’s elevation. “That was my team’s first goal, to get in World Group, and we play in Japan against Croatia so I’m really excited to play at home. Hopefully we win.”

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