Paire Ousts Nishikori; Fish Puts Retirement On Hold
Frenchman saves two match points in upset win
Last year’s US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori is out of the 2015 championships after Benoit Paire saved two match points to defeat the fourth seed 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 on Monday in New York.
The 26-year-old Paire came into Flushing Meadows on the back of a first-round loss to Korean teenager Hyeon Chung in Winston-Salem last week, but held his nerve to edge Nishikori in three hours and 14 minutes.
It is World No. 41 Paire’s third career Top 10 win (3-16) and his first over a Top 5 opponent (1-8). His previous Top 10 wins came in 2013 over No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro in Rome and No. 10 Stan Wawrinka in Montreal.
Nishikori was looking to make a winning return in New York, one year on from reaching his first Grand Slam final, which he lost to Marin Cilic. The 25 year old was forced to miss the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati two weeks ago due to injury, but prior to that had made a stellar start to the summer hard-court swing, lifting the trophy at the Citi Open in Washington (d. Isner) and beating Rafael Nadal en route to the Montreal semi-finals (l. to Murray).
The last US Open runner-up to lose the following year in the first round was Andre Agassi, who was beaten by Aaron Krickstein in 1991 after falling to Pete Sampras in the 1990 final.
"It's always very sad to lose in the first round, but I think he was playing good tennis," said Nishikori. "I don't think I played badly. Didn't play great, but still, it's never easy first match. He's a good player. I will try to think about the next one, and I hope I can come back strong next year."
Having dropped the first set, Nishikori seemed poised for victory as he turned the score line around and held two match points at 6/4 in the fourth set tie-break. However, the Japanese pushed a forehand wide on his first opportunity on serve and was denied on his second on Paire’s serve. The Frenchman then clinched his first set point chance when Nishikori netted a backhand.
Paire secured an early break advantage in the fifth set and went on to close out victory in the first match of the day on Louis Armstrong Stadium. The right-hander goes on to face Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan, who was leading 6-0, 2-6, 6-4, 3-2 when Radek Stepanek retired from their match.
"I had match point and I kind of lost a little bit my forehand," said Nishikori. "Tie-breaks can go both ways so maybe I lost a little bit of concentration, but he was hitting good serves, too. Especially in the first couple of games in the fifth set I lost my concentration and he returned well, too. Credit for him, too, playing good tennis with these conditions."
Playing in his final tournament, Mardy Fish put his impending retirement on hold as he defeated Marco Cecchinato 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in just under three hours. The 33-year-old Fish announced at the start of the summer that he would be ending his tennis-playing career after his 13th appearance at Flushing Meadows.
On his last appearance in 2012, Fish reached the fourth round before withdrawing ahead of his clash with Roger Federer. Since then, the American has battled a heart condition and anxiety disorder that has limited him to just eight tour-level tournaments in the past three years.
Next up for Fish will be 18th seed Feliciano Lopez, who fired 11 aces as he defeated qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-6(5), 6-1, 6-3. The Spanish left-hander is coming off a run to the quarter-finals in Cincinnati, where he defeated Nadal before losing to Federer.
No. 14 seed David Goffin advanced to the second round in 93 minutes, dismissing Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. The Belgian, named 2014’s ATP Comeback Player of the Year, reached the third round at the US Open last year (l. to Dimitrov). He has contested two ATP World Tour finals this year, finishing runner-up to Nicolas Mahut on grass in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and to Dominic Thiem on clay in Gstaad.
Grigor Dimitrov also cruised through his opener, beating Matthew Ebden 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in 93 minutes. The 17th-seeded Bulgarian hit 21 winners to just 14 unforced errors to claim his 27th win of the season. Dimitrov goes on to face Mikhail Kukushkin, who was leading 6-3, 6-3, 3-0 when Yen-Hsun Lu retired from their first-round clash.