MELBOURNE – Yuichi Sugita bowed out in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday after losing a five-set marathon against big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic.
The world No. 41 came within a game of victory in the final set, but it was 89th-ranked Karlovic who secured the decisive service break to grind out a 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, 4-6, 12-10 win in 4 hours, 33 minutes.
“The longer the match, the more disadvantageous it would be for me, so I wanted to seize the early opportunities,” Sugita said.
The 29-year-old Sugita, who knocked out eighth-seeded American Jack Sock in a first-round upset, could only win a single break point against the 211-cm Karlovic, whose fastest serve clocked 199 kph.
“It was the least windy day we’ve had recently, so unfortunately the accuracy of my opponent’s serve didn’t falter,” Sugita said.
Karlovic served 53 aces to Sugita’s 16, as he advanced to a third-round contest with Italian Andreas Seppi, who earlier in the day eliminated Yoshihito Nishioka, the only other Japanese male singles player in the draw.
World No. 168 Nishioka was unable to win a break point against the 76th-ranked Italian, who served nine aces on his way to a 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Nishioka, 22, who underwent surgery last March to repair a torn knee ligament, said he was still trying to regain the form he had prior to the injury.
“My movement is back to 80 or 90 percent, but my control over my shot is still only 60 to 70 percent” recovered, he said.
Naomi Osaka, who is scheduled to play Russia’s Elena Vesnina in the women’s singles on Thursday, is the last remaining Japanese singles player in the tournament.
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