In the opener of the World Group first-round series, world No. 18 Kei Nishikori defeated Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Polansky, who is ranked 135th in the world in men's singles, had replaced Milos Raonic on Canada's Davis Cup team after Raonic pulled out a left foot injury on Thursday.
But Canada pulled even in the second match when Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., a 29-year-old veteran of 19 Davis Cup ties, defeated Go Soeda 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-1.
"It's 1-1 and both No.1 players did their job," said Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. "It's a big point for us especially after we lost Milos so we are happy with today. We always like to savour the win a little bit but then we will regroup and focus on doubles tomorrow which is always a critical point in the tie."
Next up is a doubles match Saturday featuring Toronto veteran Daniel Nestor and Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil, followed by two more singles matches Sunday.
Friday's first set of the day was one of shifting momentum as Nishikori jumped out to a 2-0 lead but Polansky came back to win four straight games and go up a break. Nishikori then took the control back, claiming the next four games and the set. Nishikori increased his level even further in the second and third sets, running Polansky all over the court with his defensive play.
"I think we both played really well today and there weren't too many lapses of focus," said Polansky. "The difference was he played a bit better on some of the bigger points. He converted more break points than I did and we had a lot of long rallies which he did better on as well."
In the second match, Soeda went up a quick break but Dancevic won the final five games of the first set to take the early lead. The second set was evenly matched as both players held serve through to a tiebreak where Dancevic fed off the small but noisy Canadian crowd to up his game. Dancevic carried that dominance into the third to close it out and give Canada a much needed point.
"I was really happy with my performance today," said Dancevic. "He started off really well and it made me focus more to get back into it. As the match went on I got more and more confidence and was able to finish really strong. The Canadian crowd was great and they really motivated me and kept me in the zone today. The team and bench also got behind me and that little bit of extra emotion to get going again makes a difference."
The winner of the best-of-five tie will move on to the quarter-finals in April versus the winner of the first-round tie between Czech Republic and the Netherlands. The losing team will have to play a World Group playoff tie in September to retain their spot in the top level of the competition.