Read & Watch: London Contenders Nishikori, Isner Advance In Vienna
Isner saves two match points against Norrie
Kei Nishikori continued his bid for a place at the Nitto ATP Finals by winning his opening match at the Erste Bank Open 500 on Tuesday. The fifth-seeded Japanese star knocked out American Frances Tiafoe, a qualifier for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan next month, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-2 in two hours and eight minutes for a place in the second round.
Nishikori led by a set and 5-3 before #NextGenATP Tiafoe staged a comeback of five straight games to a 1-0 lead in the decider, but the 20-year-old’s serve was broken by Nishikori in the third and eighth games. Nishikori will next play Russia’s Karen Khachanov, winner of last week’s VTB Kremlin Cup crown, or Austrian wild card Dennis Novak.
Nishikori, who has competed at the London season finale on three previous occasions (2014-16), is currently in 10th position in the ATP Race To London with just three of the eight spots left up for grabs at The O2 from 11-18 November. The runner-up at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Nadal) and at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018 (l. to Medvedev) is now 37-17 (21-10 on hard) this year.
If John Isner goes onto compete at the Nitto ATP Finals next month, he may well look back on Tuesday’s victory against Cameron Norrie as a pivotal moment. Isner, who is currently ninth in the ATP Race To London for a spot at the eight-man season finale, stared down the barrel against the British lucky loser, but fought off two match points to triumph 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-6(7) in two hours and 19 minutes for a place in the second round.
The 6’10” American, enjoying the best year of his 12-season pro career, saved match points at 5/6 and 6/7 in the third set tie-break. In the first set, Norrie had saved one set point at 4-5, 30/40 and looked on course to beat Isner for the second time (also Lyon in May). Isner now plays France's Gael Monfils or compatriot Steve Johnson.
Elsewhere, Spain’s Fernando Verdasco worked his way past French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 15 minutes. Verdasco could not convert one set point at 6/5 in the first set tie-break, but bounced back for his 30th match win of the season (30-26 overall). He now awaits the winner of eighth-seeded Briton Kyle Edmund, last week's winner at the European Open in Antwerp (d. Monfils), or Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.