• Kyodo

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Kei Nishikori advanced to the second round of the Gerry Weber Open after defeating Dominic Thiem 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 in the first round on Tuesday.

The second-seeded Nishikori, ranked fifth in the world, had his hands full with his 21-year-old Austrian opponent on the grass, where Nishikori reached the semifinals last year.

“For my first match on grass I played quite well, even though there were a couple of ups and downs. We could have easily played three sets,” Nishikori said after his match with the 29th-ranked Thiem. “Dominic’s serves were really very good. I’m sure he is going to be in the top 10 soon.”

Nishikori struggled from the start with his first serve and was unable to establish a rhythm, while Thiem troubled him with flat returns. The Japanese star, however, fought off three set points before taking the first set in a tie break.

The second set was also tight until Nishikori, leading 6-5, broke Thiem’s serve in the 12th game to seal the match. After reaching the quarterfinals on the slower clay of the French Open, Nishikori welcomed the switch to fast-playing grass ahead of Wimbledon, which starts on June 29.

“That the tennis is different (from clay) is good preparation,” he said of what will be his only warm-up ahead of the year’s third major.

Nishikori’s second-round opponent will be 114th-ranked Dustin Brown of Germany.

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