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Nishikori reaches third round of U.S. Open

Kyodo, AP

Kei Nishikori advanced to the third round of the U.S. Open on Thursday after Pablo Andujar retired from their match at the year’s final Grand Slam event.

Tenth seed Nishikori had taken a commanding 6-4, 6-1 lead when Andujar pulled out ahead of the third set.

“I was surprised (when Andujar retired),” Nishikori said.

The Spaniard had consulted with a courtside trainer during a break while trailing 4-1 in the second set, but showed no clear signs of distress as play continued.

World No. 48 Andujar looked increasingly sluggish in the last two games of the set, losing both to Nishikori and calling it quits immediately after the set concluded.

The 24-year-old Japanese ace has had injury concerns of his own this year, most recently missing nearly a month of competition due to a cyst that was removed from his right big toe on Aug. 4.

“My condition is improving and I have no concerns at all with playing competitive tennis,” said Nishikori, who pounded 27 winners in the abbreviated match.

“I played well today. My serve was better than in the first round.”

In women’s doubles, Shuko Aoyama and Kurumi Nara lost their first-round match in straight sets to Serbian Jelena Jankovic and Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1.

Serena Williams quickly put a poor-serving start behind her and dismissed 81st-ranked American Vania King 6-1, 6-0 in 56 minutes.

“She never let me in,” said King, who is 25. “She’s played at such a high level for so long, and I used to watch when I was a kid, growing up. So it’s kind of surreal to see the person that you’ve been watching on TV in front of you and playing. It was difficult.”

While buzz around the tournament grounds built all day waiting for 15-year-old CiCi Bellis to play her second-round match at night — she wound up losing — Williams ran her U.S. Open winning streak to 16 matches as she tries to become the first woman to win three consecutive titles at Flushing Meadows since Chris Evert took four in a row from 1975-78.

After her singles victory, Williams went out and paired with older sister Venus for a first-round win in doubles. The last time Serena was seen competing in doubles at a major, last month at Wimbledon, she looked disoriented in warmups, then served four consecutive double-faults and quit after three games, saying she was ill.

For the moment, the 32-year-old Williams wants to stay focused on avoiding the sort of problems she had at the Australian Open (where she lost in the fourth round), French Open (second round) and Wimbledon (third round). Not since 2006 has she failed to reach at least one major final in a year — and she only entered two Slams that season.

So far this week, she’s left the trouble to others, and Williams could wind up being the beneficiary. A pair of other past major champions, No. 8 Ana Ivanovic and No. 24 Sam Stosur, lost Thursday, as did No. 23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 27 Madison Keys, bringing the total to 11 seeded women gone after only two rounds.

That included No. 12 Dominika Cibulkova, the Australian Open runner-up who was surprisingly defeated Tuesday by Bellis, the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996. Bellis, a Californian ranked 1,208th and playing in her first tour-level event, lost Thursday in three sets to 48th-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

In other action under the lights, 2012 U.S. Open champion Andy Murray won in straight sets, before Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard edged Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4.

Stosur, meanwhile, was edged 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-8) by 50th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.

There have been fewer surprises among the men so far, and only one seeded player was sent packing Thursday afternoon, when No. 28 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain was defeated by Sam Querrey of the United States 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Among the noteworthy results Thursday was the 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win by Victor Estrella Burgos against Borna Coric. Playing in the U.S. Open for the first time at 34, Estrella Burgos eliminated 17-year-old Coric — the biggest age difference in a U.S. Open match.