Nishikori Fights Past Berdych For First Group Win

Kei Nishikori has a chance of qualifying should he beat Roger Federer on Thursday

Eighth seed Kei Nishikori earned his first Group Stan Smith win on Tuesday at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Nishikori fought hard to beat sixth seed Tomas Berdych 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours and 23 minutes. Nishikori will play six-time former champion Roger Federer on Thursday, while Berdych meets four-time titlist Novak Djokovic in their third and final group matches.

Berdych came through a 14-point game for a 3-2 lead, but Nishikori went on to convert his fifth break point opportunity for a decisive 6-5 lead in the 63-minute opener.

Nishikori won the first five points at the start of the second set to take a 2-0, 30/30 advantage, but was left frustrated when Berdych's extra groundstroke power helped him to win the next five games. Berdych closed out the set to love.

Berdych fought back from 15/40 in the second game of the decider, then put Nishikori under pressure at 3-3, 30/30 by striking a forehand volley that hit the net cord and bounced dead for a winner. Nishikori kept his nerve on the break point, forcing a forehand error.

"That was a really big point," said Nishikori. "He had three, four shots that he went really aggressive. I was on the defence all the time. I mean, [the] last shot, I kind of went for it, closed my eyes. [I] was a little bit lucky I made that shot."

At 3-4, Berdych dropped to 0/30 and was unable to re-group as Nishikori launched a series of deep groundstrokes close to the baseline.

"I was playing very good in the second set," said Berdych. "I was playing well in the third. I was the one having a first chance, having a break point in the third set. [I] had a good rally, had a good position to finish the ball, but I just didn't make it. Then he took his chance. He broke me next game."

Berdych reached the 2011 semi-finals (l. to Tsonga) and has qualified for six straight years.