RIO DE JANEIRO – World No. 7 Kei Nishikori battled past John Millman of Australia to reach the third round at the Rio Olympics on Monday.
Nishikori, the fourth seed, was made to work in the first set but took another step toward becoming the first Japanese to medal in the event in 96 years with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 victory at Olympic Tennis Centre.
Nishikori had his back against the wall in the first set as Millman broke in the fourth game before holding his own serve to take a 4-1 lead.
Nishikori fought back valiantly, only to find himself in another tight spot as Millman won the first four points in the tiebreak.
That failed to rattle Nishikori, though, as he won the next seven to take the set before going on to claim victory in 1 hour, 38 minutes.
“At the start I could not hit winners and there was pressure,” said Nishikori, who was playing Millman for the first time.
“But halfway through the match, I tried to slow down the pace of the rallies and changed my game.”
A quarterfinalist at the London Games four years ago, Nishikori joined countryman Taro Daniel in the next round as Daniel continued his unblemished run by dispatching Briton Kyle Edmund 6-4, 7-5.
Nishikori is up against Slovakia’s Andrej Martin in the third round, while Daniel next meets the Novak Djokovic-slaying Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, who beat Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 earlier Monday.
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Japan as the country’s interest ended in the women’s tournament, Misaki Doi and Nao Hibino both losing in the second round.
Doi’s Rio campaign came to an end with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia.
Stosur, the 13th seed, reeled off four of her 11 aces in the first game of the match and then broke Doi to go 4-2 up en route to taking the opening set.
Doi raced into a 3-0 lead in the second but could not maintain the momentum as world No. 17 Stosur roared back to close out the match in 1 hour, 34 minutes.
“It was difficult to deal with her serve and forehands and I could not find my rhythm,” said the 37th-ranked Doi.
“If you don’t make the most of the few chances that come your way, then you are not going to be able to beat higher-ranked players like this.”
Hibino was bounced after being crushed 6-1, 6-1 by third-seeded French Open champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
Doi and Eri Hozumi then lost 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 to Russian pair Daria Kasatkina and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round of the women’s doubles.
In other action, Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova knocked out former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4 in the second round.
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