© Paul Macpherson / ATP World Tour

Kei Nishikori goes airborne to beat Fernando Verdasco on Tuesday in Halle.

Nishikori Tested In Halle Opener

#NextGenATP's Khachanov records first grass-court win

Third seed Kei Nishikori had to work for his first grass-court win of the year, saving nine of 10 break points against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco to advance 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle. Nishikori, who reached the semi-finals in 2014-15, overcame 14 aces and broke the Spanish veteran three times in the two-hour and 24-minute victory. 

"I think it is a challenge for me to play on grass because I haven’t played the best results yet," said Nishikori. "I am trying to find how I can play on this surface. But I think I’m improving every year. And it was my first match, so I didn’t expect to play perfect anyway. It was a really tough match today but I think it’s going good."

The Japanese right-hander will face Karen Khachanov in the second round after the #NextGenATP player made his tour-level grass-court main draw debut by ousting Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-3. The 21 year old Khachanov, who reached the Round of 16 at Roland Garros (l. to Murray), entered the week at a career-high No. 38 Emirates ATP Ranking.

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German Mischa Zverev kept up his strong play on the grass, needing only 75 minutes to dismiss Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4. Zverev knocked out Tommy Haas last week in Stuttgart to reach the MercedesCup semi-finals. Zverev, playing at a career-high of No. 29 in the Emirates ATP Rankings will face top seed and eight-time Halle champion Roger Federer in the second round.

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