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Kei Nishikori battles past Grigor Dimitrov in three sets to reach the Internazionali BNL d'Italia third round on Wednesday.

Nishikori Denies Dimitrov Birthday Win In Rome Thriller

World No. 24 to meet Kohlschreiber in third round

Kei Nishikori denied Grigor Dimitrov a 27th birthday win to reach the Internazionali BNL d’Italia third round on Wednesday, defeating the World No. 4 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4.

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.

The Japanese star, a Rome semi-finalist in 2016 (l. to Djokovic) will meet Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in the quarter-finals. The German defeated Jack Sock in straight sets on Tuesday.

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.

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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.

Nishikori improves to 11-6 on the ATP World Tour this season, while Dimitrov, who also lost his opening-round match at the Mutua Madrid Open to Milos Raonic, drops to 16-10 in 2018.

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