NEW YORK – Kei Nishikori had a couple of nervy moments early, but managed to get on track to win his match against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in four sets during the third round of the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows on Saturday.
Playing into the New York evening, Nishikori overcame a slow start after dropping the first set, going on to claim the final three and the match with little further trouble (4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2).
“Today I was pretty aggressive and played some good tennis.” said Nishikori who reached the tournament’s fourth round for the third time.
“I started playing good tennis after the first set . . . I became a little more relaxed and I was playing aggressive and more relaxed tennis.”
“It was a tough first set, (I) didn’t start quite well today. But second and third I started returning well, but it was a good match.”
After starting strongly, Nishikori had a momentary blip when an unforced error on the first break point he faced saw him go down 2-3. Mahut consolidated the break with three more strong service games to claim the first set.
Nishikori was able to even the match in the second set, breaking the 34-year-old world No. 42 twice in the set as his first serve, normally one of his most effective weapons, deserted him.
Although Mahut got his first serve percentage back to a respectable level in the final two sets, it was too late as Nishikori had settled into the match.
The Japanese played effectively from the ground as he finished with 37 winners to 28 unforced errors while stifling the Frenchman’s game which went in the opposite direction as errors plagued him in his first third-round appearance at the U.S Grand Slam.
Nishikori next plays 21st seed Ivo Karlovic with a quarterfinal match up with his Rio 2016 Olympic Games conqueror Andy Murray beckoning if both can advance from the fourth round.
“Hopefully, I can recover well, that’s the most important (thing),” said Nishikori. “Ivo is always a tough opponent, especially here where it is a little bit quick and the bounce is high.”
Nishikori has a 1-2 career head-to-head record against Karlovic, but beat the 23-ranked Croatian the last time they met, at the 2014 Memphis Open, before going on to win the title.
On Saturday Murray dropped one set but was able to beat Paolo Lorenzi.
Nao Hibino came back from a one-set deficit to win her second-round women’s doubles match with her American partner Nicole Gibbs, while Yuta Kikuchi beat seventh seed Lucas Koelle 6-0, 6-1 in the junior boys singles tournament.