Marathon Man Nishikori Outlasts Carreno Busta In Fifth Set Tie-break
Japanese favourite seeks third win over Djokovic in last eight
The Japanese star fought back from two-sets-to-love down for the fourth time in his career on Monday night at Melbourne Park with a 6-7(8), 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-6(8) victory over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, the No. 23 seed, in five hours and five minutes.
"I don't even know how I came back," Nishikori said. "But [I'm] very happy to win today."
Eighth-seeded Nishikori, who also recovered from 5/8 in the deciding set tie-break by winning five straight points, hit 81 winners, including 15 aces. Carreno Busta committed 57 unforced errors to Nishikori’s 67. Nishikori had previously earned five-set victories in the first and second rounds last week, against Kamil Majchrzak and Ivo Karlovic.
"There were many tough moments," Nishikori said. "I just tried to fight through every point, and luckily I got five points in a row [in the] last tie-break."
In an edgy opening, the pair each broke serve twice before settling into the match. Nishikori took a 2/0 lead in the tie-break, but Carreno Busta capitalised on three errors to recover. Three set point opportunities for the Spaniard went begging at 6/5 (Nishikori forehand winner), 7/6 (backhand error) and 8/7 (forehand error), before clinching the set with a forehand — his 16th winner.
Carreno Busta carried the momentum into the second set, rifling two forehand winners to break Nishikori in the third game, prior to saving two break points at 2-1. The Spaniard missed out on two set-point chances at 5/3, with Nishikori serving at 15/40, when he made two forehand errors, but in the next game, the World No. 23 closed out to love.
"Of course I was really disappointed. I should [have] won the first set. I had so many chances in the first set. And second set, he was playing better," Nishikori said. "Credit to him, but I just tried to play good tennis again. I wasn't thinking too much, and I just tried to play one game at a time."
Nishikori would now need to recover from two-sets-to-love down for the fourth time in his career. It didn’t look good when the Japanese star was broken in the fifth game of the third set, however he immediately broke back. In a second tie-break, Nishikori tightened up his game, dictated with his backhand and waited for errors from Carreno Busta.
Four straight groundstroke errors from Carreno Busta saw Nishikori break at the start of the fourth set, but a backhand error from the eighth seed in the fourth game cost Nishikori. The 29-year-old rallied immediately, getting the better of the baseline duels, and soon came within a point — on three occasions — of a 5-2 advantage. Three straight love service holds helped Nishikori keep the pressure on his opponent going into the decider.
Nishikori broke for a 2-1 lead in the fifth set and recovered from 15/40 in the sixth game, but with the finish line in sight the right-hander got tight when serving for the match at 5-4. Carreno Busta did the basic, getting the ball back in play and soon the pressure moved to Nishikori, serving second in the pair’s first meeting.
In a deciding tie-break both players made nervous starts, but Carreno Busta became more assured in his ball-striking to open up a 4/2 advantage. Carreno Busta edged closer to the finish, gaining an 8/5 lead, but like he did throughout, Nishikori battled back, winning five straight points to clinch his thrilling victory. The Japanese star finished with an ace — his 15th of the match — to improve to 21-7 in five-setters.
"I know that Kei is a great player, and he's fighting all the time. So when I won the second set, I knew that I needed to continue playing my best tennis if I would like to win the match. I didn't play bad the third and the fourth set, but Kei played good also," Carreno Busta said. "It was very close match, and I think that I played probably one of the best matches of my career."