HYOGO (Japan) - Ivo Karlovic beat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to leave Croatia tied 1-1 with Japan in the first round of the Davis Cup World Group on Friday.

Karlovic beat Nishikori with 18 aces in the day’s second singles. In the first match, Japan’s Go Soeda rallied from two sets down for a 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 win over Ivan Dodig.

“I tried to mix my shots a lot and not rally a lot with him,” Karlovic said. “I try to win as quickly as I can on every point and I was trying to be as aggressive as I could.” Nishikori last month became the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open since the Open Era began in 1968, but he struggled against the big-serving Croatian.

Two errors by Nishikori in the ninth game sealed the win for Croatia and left the series wide open going into the doubles. I’m not used to playing that kind of player, so it wasn’t easy for me,” Nishikori said.

Japan is returning to the World Group for the first time in 26 years after beating India 4-1 in a regional playoff in September. Japan is 10 places below seventh-ranked Croatia in the Davis Cup rankings.

Saturday’s (today) doubles will feature Karlovic and Lovro Zovko against Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita, while Sunday’s reverse singles will see Nishikori face Dodig and Soeda against Karlovic.