Nishikori Rallies To Claim First Win In Rotterdam

Japanese to meet Gulbis in second round

Kei Nishikori recovered from a set down to record his first victory at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Tuesday, beating in-form Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

The Rotterdam debutant, who captured his 12th ATP Tour title at the Brisbane International last month (d. Medvedev), won 84 per cent of first-serve points (37/44) to advance after two hours and 11 minutes. Nishikori improves to 9-1 at tour-level this season and 2-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Herbert. Last week, Herbert reached his third ATP Tour singles final, falling in straight-sets to countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Open Sud de France.  

“It wasn’t easy, as he was playing good tennis and serving well,” said Nishikori. “I had a little bit of trouble with my return game and couldn’t convert the important points. I just tried to play steady, as I wasn’t playing bad, and I tried to stay aggressive.”

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Nishikori will meet Ernests Gulbis for a spot in the quarter-finals. The 30-year-old Latvian defeated fellow lucky loser Marius Copil 6-2, 6-4 in 72 minutes. Nishikori is unbeaten in two FedEx ATP Head2Head clashes against Gulbis.

“[Gulbis] is not easy, especially indoors where he uses his great serve and aggressive play really well," said Nishikori. "I just need to stay focused and get used to the conditions a little bit more.”

After saving five break points in a 13-minute game at 3-3, with aggression behind his serve and forehand, Herbert made a crucial breakthrough. The Frenchman stepped into the court, rushing his opponent into a series of errors to claim eight of the next 10 points and a one-set lead.

Nishikori raised his level early in the second set after failing to convert two break points, in a marathon 15-minute game, for a 2-0 lead. The Japanese No. 1 showcased remarkable court coverage en route to his first break of the match and won five straight games from 1-1 to force a decider. Nishikori rode the momentum into the third set, breaking for a 2-1 lead with back-to-back forehand winners before claiming victory after an unforced backhand error from Herbert.

If only Tallon Griekspoor played in Rotterdam every week. The home favourite pulled off an upset for the second year in a row at his home tournament, stunning Rolex Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to stroll into the second round. Griekspoor, No. 211 in the ATP Rankings, never backed down against the 6'6" Russian, winning 13 of his 21 net points (62%) and nearly matching Khachanov's winner tally (19 to 20).

"It's unbelievable," Griekspoor said of the home environment. "It's so nice to play in this court. The evening matches are amazing."

Both of Griekspoor's tour-level wins have come at the ATP 500 event. Last year, he beat Swiss Stan Wawrinka for his first tour-level victory. The 22-year-old Dutchman will face Montpellier champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano for a place in the quarter-finals.

Did You Know?
Nishikori has won his opening match at each of his past 11 tour-level events. The World No. 7's most recent opening-match loss came against Robin Haase at the Rogers Cup in August 2018.

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