CINCINNATI – Japan’s newly crowned Rio Olympic bronze medalist Kei Nishikori got off to a winning start at the Western & Southern Open with a straight-sets second-round victory over Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny on Wednesday.
World No. 7 Nishikori eased past his 68th-ranked opponent 6-3, 6-2 in his first match since giving Japan its first Olympic tennis medal in almost a century on Sunday in Rio.
Nishikori, who received a first-round bye, saved all six break points and broke the 34-year-old Youzhny four times to advance in 80 minutes.
“My conditioning was much different to last week,” said Nishikori, who beat fifth-ranked Spaniard Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-7 (1-7), 6-3 in Rio en route to becoming the first Japanese tennis medalist since Ichiya Kumagai (silver) at the 1920 Games in Antwerp.
“I could only practice for an hour (on Tuesday) and it was really hard to find a rhythm. The bounce is slow on these courts and it took me a while to get used to that.”
“My returns gradually started to click and my serve was good so those two things saved me at important points in the match.”
The Western & Southern Open is Nishikori’s last tournament before the U.S. Open, the last major of the year starting in New York on Aug. 29.