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Kei Nishikori fought through two five-setters to begin the Australian Open.

This Time, Nishikori Avoids The Drama

Japan's No. 1 slides into the fourth round

Kei Nishikori skipped the fifth-set drama on Saturday and advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open for the seventh time.

The eighth seed, who had played two five-setters to start the tournament, swept Portugal's Joao Sousa 7-6(6), 6-1, 6-2 to setup a Round of 16 contest with Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.

"First set could have gone both ways. He was playing well. He was serving well. Playing aggressive, using his forehand. Maybe I hit too much to his forehand... That's his best weapon," Nishikori said. "But second and third, I think I relaxed a little more, started hitting more good shots, heavy, serving well. It obviously helps my body winning in three sets. I had a tough first and second round."

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Both Nishikori and Sousa came through two five-setters to make the third round. Nishikori came back from two sets down against Polish qualifier Kamil Majchrzak and outlasted Croatian Ivo Karlovic in a fifth-set Match Tie-break.

Sousa overcame Argentina's Guido Pella and Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. But it was Nishikori who had more left in the tank in Margaret Court Arena. The Japanese right-hander, who's made the quarter-finals three times (2012, 2015, 2016), won nearly 80 per cent of his first-serve points (40/52) and broke Sousa five times to pull ahead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-1.

"I'll try to recover well. I think that's most important going into the second week," Nishikori said.

Carreno Busta extended his perfect FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Fabio Fognini to six matches, beating the 31-year-old Italian 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in two and a half hours.

The 23rd seed won 79 per cent of second-serve return points (33/42) and converted 8 of 17 break points to reach the Round of 16 in Melbourne for the second straight year. Carreno Busta has now recorded 70 hard-court victories at tour-level (70-64).

Fognini was aiming to clinch his 50th Grand Slam match win and reach the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time. The 12th seed advanced to the Round of 16 in 2014 (l. to Djokovic) and 2018 (l. to Berdych).

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