Clinical Nishikori starts Miami Open campaign with win

Kyodo, AP

World No. 6 Kei Nishikori got off to winning start at the Miami Open on Saturday, dismissing Frenchman Pierre Hugues-Herbert in straight sets to advance to the third round.

Sixth-seeded Nishikori, who was given a bye in the first round, prevailed 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) against his 107th-ranked opponent and will play No. 27 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov in the next round. Dolgopolov beat Italy’s Andre Seppi 6-4, 6-4.

“I saw my opponent’s (Herbert’s) first-round match and his serve was good so I knew it would be hard to return, but I was able to put pressure on him with my return and that created chances for me,” said Nishikori, who had to work hard in the second set to come back from 5-2 down.

“I started well in the first set and he (Herbert) started playing better with an aggressive first serve. He tried to come in a lot so credit to him.

“I came back from 5-2 (down) so I am very happy with today’s win.”

Nishikori leads his ATP head-to-head rivalry against Ukrainian Dolgopolov 3-0.

Nishikori’s Japanese compatriot Tatsuma Ito failed to advance as he was beaten 6-3, 6-2 by 16th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils.

Elsewhere at the Miami Open, Rafael Nadal slumped in a changeover chair, the blood pressure gauge strapped to his mighty left arm serving as a scoreboard.

He was on the verge of defeat, and a few points later he retired from a match for the first time in six years.

Nadal faded in the subtropical heat and conceded after falling behind in the third set of his opening match against Damir Dzumhur.

The No. 5-seeded Nadal trailed 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 when he called it quits after losing a point to fall behind 30-15. He had earlier consulted with a trainer between games three times, and had his blood pressure checked.

Nadal said he started feeling bad at the end of the first set.

“It was getting worse and worse and worse,” the Spaniard said. “I get a little bit scared — too dizzy. I felt I was not safe, so I decided to go. I wanted to finish the match, but I seriously couldn’t.”

His departure left the draw without three of the five highest-seeded men. No. 4 Stan Wawrinka lost to Andrey Kuznetsov 6-4, 6-3, and No. 3 Roger Federer withdrew Friday because of a stomach virus.

Eight-time champion Serena Williams avoided the upset bug and seemed unfazed by the weather. The South Floridian earned her 20th consecutive victory at Key Biscayne and reached the fourth round by beating Zarina Diyas 7-5, 6-3.

“I live down the street, and I’m used to these conditions,” she said. “Even though it was a little humid, I’m used to it and I love this weather.”

Nadal’s match lasted less than two hours, but the temperature was around 30 degrees and was even higher on the sunbaked stadium hardcourt.

Nadal said he felt fine before the match and wasn’t sure whether he was contracting an illness.

“Hopefully it’s just the extreme conditions,” he said. “It’s tough for me, because I felt I was playing well. It’s a hard accident. That’s life.”

Nadal later pulled out of doubles.