Ivo Karlovic beat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 Friday to give Croatia a split against Japan in the first round of the Davis Cup.

Karlovic overpowered Nishikori with 18 aces in the day's second singles in World Group play. In the first match, Japan's Go Soeda rallied past Ivan Dodig 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open since the Open era began in 1968, but struggled against the big-serving Croatian.

Japan is in the World Group for the first time in 26 years.

In Saturday's doubles of the best-of-five series, Karlovic and Lovro Zovko play Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita. In Sunday's reverse singles, it's Nishikori vs. Dodig and Soeda vs. Karlovic.