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Del Potro Survives Scare; Nishikori Wins In Five Sets

Melbourne, Australia

Nishikori© Getty ImagesKei Nishikori fights past Marinko Matosevic in the first round.

Juan Martin Del Potro survived an early scare on Tuesday at the Australian Open, coming back from a first-set deficit to overcome 22-year-old American qualifier Rhyne Williams 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in just over three hours. 

Last week’s Sydney International champion hasn't lost to a player ranked as low as Williams, No. 130 on the Emirates ATP Rankings, since Tokyo in 2009, when he fell to No. 189 Edouard Roger-Vasselin, but after an error-riddled tie-break, Williams was walking to the chair with a one-set advantage. 

Lifting his service percentage from 40 per cent in the opening set to over 70 per cent for the remainder of the match allowed del Potro the free points he’d been lacking on his serve. Cleaning up his game, he took control of the match, breaking Williams four times from eight chances.

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"I didn't expect this kind of match against him," admitted del Potro. "I didn't know too much before the match about how he plays tennis. But he served well. His forehand is good. I started the match really, really slow, and then it was difficult to come back and play my game. But in the end, I served well. I hit some good forehands. That's help me to improve a little bit my game."

Del Potro has never lost an Australian Open first round in eight straight appearances at Melbourne Park, and will now have to get through Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut to defend his third-round result from 2013, after the World No. 62 beat American Tim Smyczek in straight sets today. Del Potro has the chance to rise to a new career-high of World No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings if results go his way at the Australian Open.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori improved to a 7-2 mark in matches decided in a fifth set after overcoming Australian Marinko Matosevic, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

“I'm happy to win, first of all,” said the No. 16 seed following the three-hour, 11-minute victory. “It was not easy condition with the heat and with the wind. It's always tough to play first round. You get tight and anything can happen. But I'm happy to win in fifth set.”

Nishikori next meets 23-year-old Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic, who made his Grand Slam main draw debut by beating Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-4, 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-3.

Eighteen-year-old Nick Kyrgios, last year’s Australian Open boys’ champion, was victorious on his first appearance in the men’s main draw. The Canberra native defeated German Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(2).

"Obviously every time you get to the second round of a Slam it's one of the best days, especially in my early career," said Kyrgios. "But it was really good playing in front of my home crowd this time. I'm pretty excited for the next round as well. I'm just soaking it in. It was a really good experience."

Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, the No. 31 seed, advanced to the second round by rallying past China’s Ze Zhang 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. 

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© Hiroshi Sato

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