• Kyodo


Yoshihito Nishioka had an excellent win at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, topping Ivo Karlovic in straight sets, while Naomi Osaka joined him in the third round with a victory of her own.

The world No. 70 Nishioka, who only made the main draw in Indian Wells after progressing from qualifying as a lucky loser, made light work of 19th seed Karlovic, winning 6-4, 6-3 in 80 minutes.

“I didn’t think I’d have too many chances. So I wanted to persevere and try and keep up with him,” Nishioka said after the match in which he took advantage of his opponent’s second-serve struggles.

Nishioka won three of four break points against the veteran world No. 21 Croat, while winning all seven against his own serve, something the Japanese called a “crucial” factor, especially early in the match.

Nishioka said his pace, accuracy and the fact he is a left-hander enabled him to overcome the 41-cm difference in the players’ heights, a factor that often plays out on serve — one of Karlovic’s main weapons.

“There’s not a whole lot I can do about the difference in size,” said Nishioka, before joking that the height difference was most stark when the two players shook hands after the match.

“I was staring into his hips, I couldn’t even see his face.”

Osaka took her chances and evened the career head-to-head slate against her more accomplished Chinese opponent, Zhang Shuai.

Riding her powerful serve, Osaka closed out the match against Zhang, ranked 18 places above her, 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour, 14 minutes.

“I was more aggressive than the last time I played her when I lost,” said Osaka, referencing their previous meeting at the Tokyo International in 2016.

On Saturday, Osaka broke Zhang five times while dropping just two games on her own serve. She overcame a 46 percent first-serve percentage by winning 16 of 31 points on her second serve.

World No. 9 Madison Keys is Osaka’s next opponent, with the American having won the players’ only other meeting at the U.S. Open in 2016.

“Keys is a top-10 player so I need to play even better,” said Osaka. “In the U.S. Open (third round), I didn’t know how to match up with her, but things are different now.”

Fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori plays Daniel Evans on Sunday. The Briton won one of his two previous meetings against the Japanese star.

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