Nishikori Extends Streak Against Kukushkin
Nishikori eases into the third round in Indian Wells
It may be only March, but Mikhail Kukushkin's campaign has been derailed by Kei Nishikori for a third time this year. The Kazakh player fell 6-3, 6-3 to the Japanese 26 year old in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.
Nishikori, No. 5 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, improved his FedEx ATP Head2Head to 6-0 against Kukushkin, who fell to 2-26 lifetime against Top 10 opponents.
"I felt comfortable today and this week in practice," Nishikori said. "But it's not [an] easy match against Kukushkin. He hits flat and it's not easy to hit hard against him. I stayed patient, and I thought it was a pretty good match."
Earlier this month, Kukushkin pushed Serbia's Novak Djokovic in a Davis Cup tie in Belgrade. Djokovic, No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, went on to beat the 90th-ranked Kukushkin 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
But against Nishikori in Indian Wells, Kukushkin was never allowed into the match. Nishikori won 71 per cent of his first-serve points and 67 per cent of second-serve points. He also broke Kukushkin four times to get off the court in one hour and 10 minutes. He will now face American Steve Johnson.
Johnson, the No. 30 seed, also won in straight sets against Australia's John Millman, No. 74 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, 6-4, 6-2. The Aussie fended off four match points but Johnson won the match the next game. The American will be looking to get his first win against Nishikori, who leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 3-0.
Johnson's compatriot John Isner used 22 aces to advance in straight sets over Italy's Andreas Seppi 7-6(1), 6-4. Isner was broken while serving for the match but recovered to win in an hour and 15 minutes. He'll next face Adrian Mannarino of France. In an all-French affair, Mannarino easily accounted for 19th seed Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3 in little more than an hour.