Tennis

Kei Nishikori reaches third round at Indian Wells

Kyodo, AP

Kei Nishikori survived a scare against France’s Adrian Mannarino on Sunday to reach the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.

The sixth-seeded Nishikori beat Mannarino 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4) in his opener at the ATP Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The world No. 7 Nishikori was under pressure when No. 52 Mannarino served for the match at 6-5 in the third set, but errors cost the Frenchman as Nishikori forced a tiebreak and went on to seal the match in 2 hours, 33 minutes.

“My opponent played great defense, so that made me hit more, we had long rallies,” said Nishikori. “I could’ve played better, but I was able to play my best in the final tiebreak.”

In the pair’s second career meeting, Nishikori fired three aces to Mannarino’s one, but he was only able to convert four of the 11 break points he earned.

Nishikori also won their previous encounter at October’s Paris Masters, that time in straight sets.

“(Mannarino) played twice as well as he did in our previous encounter,” Nishikori said. “But I was able to focus and play well at the end.”

Nishikori will face Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated the Japanese star in the third round of February’s Dubai Tennis Championships, their only previous meeting.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams’ return to tennis after a five-week break ended early with her retiring from the BNP Paribas Open because of a viral illness.

Williams raced to a 3-0 lead over two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza in their third-round match before dropping six straight games and the first set, 6-3.

“By the score, it might have looked like I started well, but I was not feeling at all well physically,” Williams said in comments distributed by tournament officials.

During the changeover between sets, Williams called for a trainer. She went back out and lost the first game of the second set. The match was soon declared over and Williams walked off the court.

“Before the match, I did not feel great and then it just got worse with every second; extreme dizziness and extreme fatigue,” Williams said. “I will focus on getting better and start preparing for Miami.”

Muguruza is the only player to have beaten both Serena and Venus Williams in tournament finals.

The Spaniard credited Williams for being “very dominating” from the start of the match.

“I had to adapt a little bit my position in the court, the way I was hitting, and it took me a few games to kind of do it,” Muguruza said. “Once I did it, I felt much more comfortable.”

Williams was playing her first tournament since the Australian Open in late January, when she lost in the quarterfinals.

After a first-round bye in Indian Wells, she beat Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-3 on Friday night.

It’s the second time in four years that Williams has withdrawn from the tournament. She returned to the desert in 2015 after a 15-year boycott. That year she reached the semifinals before withdrawing against Simona Halep. She missed 2017 because of pregnancy.