Radek Stepanek gave champions Czech Republic a 1-0 lead in their Davis Cup quarter-final against Japan when he came from a set down to beat Tatsuma Ito 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 6-1 7-5 in Tokyo on Friday.
The 35-year-old former world number eight fired down 18 aces to quell the challenge of his 146th ranked opponent in three hours, 53 minutes at the Ariake Coliseum after going down in a tight first set tiebreak.
The Czechs, who are targeting a third successive title, will look to lock up an imposing 2-0 lead when Lukas Rosol takes on 21-year-old Taro Daniel in the second singles rubber later on Friday.
Ito and Daniel are bearing the weight of Japan's hopes of prgressing after world number 18 Kei Nishikori withdrew with a groin strain and Go Soeda was laid low by a fever. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)