Nishikori Denies Dimitrov Birthday Win In Rome Thriller
Nishikori, who entered Rome on a three-match losing streak, came from a set and a break down to defeat Dimitrov for the fourth time in five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. Dimitrov has now lost four consecutive matches in Rome, dating back to his first-round win over Poland's Jerzy Janowicz in 2015.
Nishikori secured the opening break of the match in the fifth game, converting his fifth break point opportunity after letting a 40/0 advantage on the Bulgarian’s serve slip. The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters runner-up served for the set at 5-4, but Dimitrov reeled off eight consecutive points to lead 6-5 after breaking with a forehand winner. Dimitrov, the Nitto ATP Finals champion, once again, trailed in the tie-break, but came back to clinch the first set as Nishikori netted off his backhand side.
The 27-year-old was the first to break in set two, establishing a 4-3 lead as Nishikori fired long on his backhand, but the Bulgarian could not consolidate his advantage. Nishikori replied immediately, saving game point, before unleashing a pinpoint backhand down the line on his second break point of the set. The match appeared to be heading to a second tie-break, but Nishikori made a late charge, breaking serve on his third set point at 6-5 as Dimitrov misfired on his forehand.
Dimitrov, once again, took the opening break in the decider and moved into a 4-2 lead before Nishikori made the decisive move. Nishikori won four consecutive games, extracting a forehand error from Dimitrov to reach 4-4 before booking his place in the third round as Dimitrov netted an attempted backhand down the line on match point.