Nishikori Survives Another Five-Setter In Melbourne
Kei Nishikori showed his deciding-set prowess once more on Monday to start the 2017 Australian Open in Melbourne. The fifth seed survived a mid-day battle against Russian Andrey Kuznetsov 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2 in three hours and 34 minutes.
“I didn't quite play great tennis in the beginning, but especially in the fifth set, I think I was really focused and played good tennis,” said Nishikori. “I’ll try not to play a long match like this again. But the fifth set was pretty good, so I think I'm in good shape for the next round.”
Nishikori led the fourth-set tie-break 5-2 before Kuznetsov stormed back, winning six of the final seven points to force a fifth set. But Nishikori, who entered the match with an all-time best record of 100-30 in deciding sets, according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, came through again under pressure.
In the fifth set, Nishikori broke the 25-year-old right-hander to lead 3-1 and finished the match with another break. “It wasn't easy,” he said on court after the match.
The 27-year-old has reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park three times – 2012, 2015 and 2016. In the second round, he'll meet Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who advanced after Nicolas Almagro retired down 4-0.
Tomas Berdych had to spend only 32 minutes in the Melbourne heat before advancing to the second round. Berdych's opponent, Italian qualifier Luca Vanni, retired because of a hip injury down 6-1.
Berdych has now reached the second round of the Australian Open 12 consecutive years. The 10th seed will next meet American Ryan Harrison, who dismissed Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and two minutes.
Harrison, No. 82 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, controlled his side of the net, winning almost 80 per cent of his first-serve points. The 24 year old pressured Mahut's serve throughout the match as well, converting six of 14 break points. Harrison last reached the second round in Melbourne in 2013.
Lukas Lacko found himself a set away from defeat against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, but rebounded to score a 4-6, 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory. Lacko improves his FedEx ATP Head2Head record over Ramos-Vinolas to 2-0. He’ll now play Dudi Sela, who was a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 winner over Marcel Granollers.