Nishikori Survives Verdasco In Miami Marathon
Runner-up to Novak Djokovic last year, Nishikori improved to 19-6 at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event. Also a semi-finalist in 2014 and quarter-finalist in 2015, the Japanese will look to reach the last eight in Miami for the fourth straight year when he takes on Federico Delbonis next.
"It was definitely a long match," said Nishikori. "It wasn't easy in the third set, but I have a day off tomorrow, so I should be okay."
The 27-year-old Nishikori fired 37 winners, but Verdasco seemed to have an answer for each of them. Aided by persistent swirling winds, the Spaniard used his varying pace and depth to rattle his opponent, inducing 48 unforced errors. The 33 year old forced a first-set tie-break after rallying from a 3-0 deficit, but Nishikori held his ground, firing a lunging half-volley backhand winner from the baseline to take the opener.
Nishikori looked to be in cruise control after breaking early in the second set and serving for the match at 5-4. But Verdasco would save a match point to break back and eventually forced a decider with a scorching cross-court backhand. Despite relinquishing the lead, Nishikori stayed the course, reeling off six of seven games in the third set to advance to the Round of 16.
"I knew it's going to be a tough one," Nishikori added. "Fernando is a very solid player. He has a great serve and great groundstrokes. I knew it was going to be long rallies.
"But it was a shame when I was up a break in both first and second sets and both went to 7-6. That was something I made some mistakes when I was up a break. But in the third set I was very focused. Even though the first and second were tough, I was trying to play with more energy and I think everything was working well in the third. It was a tough one, but I'm very happy to win today."
In total, the Stadium Court faithful witnessed a combined 20 of 28 break points saved between the Japanese and the Spaniard. Nishikori edged ahead 3-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. They were meeting for the first time since Nishikori claimed a five-set thriller at Roland Garros last year.
The second seed will face Delbonis next, after the Argentine dismissed Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6(5), 6-1 earlier on Sunday. Delbonis is into the Round of 16 at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event for the second time, following a fourth-round finish in Indian Wells last year.