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Nishikori beats Melzer at Shanghai Rolex Masters

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Kei Nishikori moved into the third round of the Shanghai Rolex Masters with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Austria’s Jurgen Melzer on Wednesday night.

Nishikori, the twelfth seed, won a baseline slugfest with the unseeded left-hander for the second week in a row.

The Shimane native was two points from defeat in the first round at the Rakuten Open in Tokyo last week, before rallying to beat Melzer in three sets.

“He’s not easy to play,” Nishikori said following the second-round battle. “He’s always aggressive and tries to come in. There were some tight moments.”

Playing in mild conditions on the outer Grandstand Court after two days of rain, Nishikori and Melzer exchanged service breaks in the first two games of the opening set, then stayed on serve until Nishikori broke to go up 5-4 with a nice forehand winner.

He then closed out the set in 42 minutes on serve with an ace.

Nishikori, in uncharacteristic fashion, committed several unforced errors in the second set that let Melzer back in the match.

The lone break in the second set came in the sixth game after Nishikori fought off three break points.

After the third one, Melzer shouted loudly in German and was given a conduct warning by the chair umpire.

He then came close to a meltdown while arguing, but finally pulled himself together and earned the break, then went on to claim the set.

“I made some mistakes in the second set,” Nishikori noted. “I hit several balls into the net I should not have. I felt some pressure and wasn’t hitting the ball smoothly.”

Nishikori came out determined in the final set, taking the first game at love, then breaking Melzer in the second.

It was 5-0 before Melzer finally held, but by then the result was academic, and Nishikori prevailed in 1 hour, 47 minutes.

Melzer, who is 32, appeared fatigued in the final set, against his much younger opponent. The 23-year-old Nishikori caught a second wind and never looked back.

“It is possible that he was tired,” commented Nishikori. “He might have lost concentration. It was great that I got the break and went up 3-0. The first couple of games in the third set I always make an effort to come out strong.”

There was one humorous moment in the contest, when a young female fan screamed “Nishikori” during a changeover then immediately ran out of the stadium.

This was the fourth career meeting between Nishikori and Melzer. Nishikori now holds a 3-1 advantage.

The win earned Nishikori a matchup with seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France on Thursday.

Tsonga downed unseeded Pablo Andujar of Spain 6-3, 6-2.

In other action, top seed Novak Djokovic won his second-round match 6-2, 6-0 over unseeded Marcel Granollers of Spain.

Second seed Rafael Nadal, who reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in the world this week, was playing unseeded Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine later Wednesday.

Germany’s Tomas Berdych, the fourth seed, ousted Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.

Seventeen-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, the fifth seed, dispatched Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-3.

Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, who won the Rakuten Open, rallied to beat Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Del Potro, the sixth seed, improved his all-time record to 6-0 against Kohlschreiber.