Nishikori Survives Young Scare In Tokyo Opener

Japanese star battles through

In his first singles match since the US Open semi-finals, Kei Nishikori withstood an impressive performance by Donald Young to prevail 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2016 on Monday.

The 26-year-old Nishikori is looking to win this ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tournament in Tokyo for the third time this week, following victories in 2012 and 2014, defeating Milos Raonic both times. A good run for the right-hander would also stand him in good stead in the Emirates ATP Race To London. Nishikori is currently fifth in the year-to-date standings, with the Top 8 at the end of the regular season qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

There was almost a significant setback for Nishikori, though, as Young, a late substitution for an ailing Nicolas Almagro, came close to pulling off an upset against the top seed. The American left-hander played an assertive brand of baseline tennis, not unlike that of his opponent. Using his whippy forehand to good effect, Young saved two break points at 4-4, then shocked the partisan crowd by breaking through on the final point of the opening set.

“I wasn't hitting enough topspin, and he was playing well. He was in the mood to attack and to come in, and he made all his shots,” Nishikori said. “It's been a while since I played singles, so I needed some time to get back into the rhythm.”

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Despite the setback, Nishikori did not flinch. He showed his mental strength and raced to a 5-1 lead in the second set by playing fearless attacking tennis. With the match level, Nishikori did not let up. The Japanese superstar did not face a break point in the deciding set and served out the match at love to improve to 18-6 in Tokyo.

“He slowed down a little bit and I started to step in and to use my forehand more. I played good tennis in the last two sets,” Nishikori said.

Awaiting Nishikori in the second round is Joao Sousa, who also prevailed against a tricky left-hander after dropping the first set. The Portuguese No. 1 won 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 against Slovakian Martin Klizan. The two players will be meeting for the first time at tour-level.

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