MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Kei Nishikori continued his fine Australian Open form on Friday, winning his third-round match against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in four sets under the roof on a rainy day.
Despite the relatively one-sided score line, the seventh-seeded star was made to work hard by his Spanish world No. 27 opponent, dropping one set on his way to a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.
“It was a really tough match,” said Nishikori. “I lost the second set kind of easily, but it was tough mentally. I tried to stay tough and concentrate again and I played much better in the last two sets.”
After fighting back from a service break down to win the first set, Nishikori had some trouble with his wrist, taking a medical timeout and losing the next set before recovering.
“In the first set I was sore but after treatment I felt better,” he said. “I tried to stay tough, concentrated again — I played better in (the) last set.”
Nishikori dropped his first service game in the second set. But this time he could not manage a similar recovery as Garcia-Lopez served it out to even the match, 1-1.
“He was serving really well and I couldn’t return well. I didn’t serve quite well and that’s why I lost the second set,” Nishikori said.
Nishikori claimed a service break to take a 4-2 lead in the third set and despite facing break points in each of his subsequent service games, he toughed it out to take the set.
“It was a really tough moment . . . I was able to save some important points,” he said.
It was a similar story in the fourth set, with Nishikori taking an early 3-1 lead that he was able to sustain, as he closed out the match.
“To finish in four sets (is good), luckily it didn’t go five — for my body that’s great.”
Nishikori will next face the winner of the third-round match between ninth seed Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and his fellow Frenchman Pierre-Hughes Herbert.
Roger Federer was already a long way clear at the top of the list of men with the most wins in Grand Slam singles matches, so becoming the first to 300 almost seemed like a secondary consideration.
He reached the milestone on Friday, when he moved into the fourth round with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Grigor Dimitrov.
Maria Sharapova played two nearly flawless sets on either side of the one where she struggled against Lauren Davis in a slight hiccup.
Sharapova, who won the title here in 2008 and has lost three finals — including last year’s decider to Serena Williams — advanced to the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1 on Friday, her 600th tour-level match win.
“Wow. I’ve won 600 matches?” Sharapova asked, responding to a question in an on-court interview. “Is this like a friendly reminder that I’m getting old? Might be.”
The 28-year-old, five-time major winner is playing her 13th Australian Open since 2003 so she knew what to expect when she lost concentration in the second set despite being up a break and 30-0.
“You know you’re in a Grand Slam environment, third round and against an opponent you haven’t played . . . that’s fired up and is not going to just give you the match and that’s exactly what happened,” she said. “I am quite happy that I was able to step up in the third set. That was very important.”
The first set was over in 26 minutes, with Sharapova getting two service breaks and not facing a break point herself. She was broken twice in the second, when Davis came back hard and eventually won in the tiebreaker, despite conceding a key point after a 27-shot rally when she volleyed into the net, and covered her face with her hand.