PARIS – Kei Nishikori chalked up his 50th career Grand Slam win Monday at the French Open, finishing his rain-delayed opening match in a straight-set win over Italy’s Simone Bolelli, 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.
Resuming play from Sunday with a 2-1 lead in the third set, Nishikori went on to grab a break and go up 5-3. He fended off two break points in the final game and served up an ace for the victory.
“It was only the first match but it took so long. I wish we didn’t have to take two days. We finished late last night and I had trouble recovering,” said Nishikori of the three-hour match that was eventually suspended.
“The wind was strong and it was difficult to play (today), but I did well. I wasn’t able to give it my best, but I’m just glad we finished early,” he said, adding that he will make adjustments before the next match.
The world No. 6 faces 40th-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia in the second round of the clay-court Grand Slam event.
Nishikori has done well on clay in recent years, including back-to-back titles at the Barcelona Open in 2014 and 2015.
“I did well on clay last year, but I feel like my level has gone up since. My play is more stable because of the improved accuracy,” he said.
Nishikori had his best career French Open showing last year, reaching the quarterfinals before falling in five sets to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
Taro Daniel posted his first Gram Slam victory when his Slovakian opponent Martin Klizan pulled out in the final set due to injury. Daniel, an American-born Japanese national, was facing lefty Klizan for the first time.
In the women’s draw, Misaki Doi was down 6-2, 1-3 to Samantha Stosur of Australia when play was suspended until Tuesday morning due to darkness.
In her French Open debut, 18-year-old Naomi Osaka advanced to the second round when she beat Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 6-4, 7-5 with four straight return aces in the seventh game of the second set.
Nao Hibino made an early exit when she was defeated by sixth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep 6-2, 6-0.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka breathed a huge sigh of relief and Andy Murray faced a sleepless night after both got bogged down by two Czechs.
A day that began two hours late after torrential rain ended with world No. 2 Murray hanging on against 37-year-old Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek having lost the opening two sets in the Philippe Chatrier Court gloom.
When play was finally suspended Murray had repaired some of the damage but still trailed 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 4-2.
Third seed Wawrinka did book his place in the second round, although his path to victory against straight-hitting Lukas Rosol was equally tortuous.
The Swiss, decked out in an eye-straining fluorescent yellow shirt, was left in the shade by the world No. 59 and twice trailed by a set before his opponent tired and he scratched out a 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Wawrinka puffed out his cheeks after tucking away a volley on his third match point, happy to have avoided becoming the first defending men’s champion to lose his opening match since Australian Lew Hoad in 1957.
It was touch and go, however, as Rosol, who famously knocked out Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon second round in 2012, threatened another huge upset with his murderous ground strokes.
“A really tough match, the conditions were slow and heavy,” Wawrinka, who only arrived on Saturday hours after winning the Geneva title, told reporters.
“He kept me under pressure permanently. I kept running after the score. You can’t really relax.”
Murray, the second favorite to dethrone Wawrinka after world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, had to wait until 7 p.m. local time to take on tricky Stepanek, the oldest man in the draw.
He might have hoped to polish off the world No. 128 in time for dinner, but Stepanek had other ideas.
With Murray off-key, Stepanek used his full range of slices, pinpoint forehands and bamboozling drop shots to torment the two-time Grand Slam champion.