CINCINNATI, OHIO – World No. 5 Kei Nishikori suffered a 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 defeat to 77th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka on Wednesday in a second-round contest at the Western & Southern Open.
Nishikori, who lost his opening singles match and pulled out of the men’s doubles citing elbow pain at last week’s Rogers Cup, called for on-court treatment twice and was far from his best, making 33 unforced errors to Nishioka’s 13.
“It was a tough match. He played good tennis,” the 29-year-old Nishikori said.
“My serves were not so good, and I wish I had made more of my serves. I’ve been having trouble breathing since Wimbledon (in July), so I’ve got to get it checked.”
In the 1-hour, 39-minute match at Grandstand Stadium, Nishikori made uncharacteristic forehand errors and was visibly struggling from the start.
For Nishioka, it was the first top 10 win of his career. He made 67 percent of his first serves, converted three of 12 break points, and hit three aces.
The 23-year-old qualifier said the victory over his hero and former practice partner at the IMG Academy was a dream come true.
“I came here with pride, being grateful to play against Nishikori,” Nishioka said. “I’m very happy to have won. This is the biggest moment of my life. The key was how well I would control my service game.”
Nishioka next faces Australia’s Alex de Minaur in what will be his fifth match in six days.
World No. 1 Naomi Osaka battled to a three-set triumph.
Reigning U.S. and Australian Open champion Osaka needed more than two hours to outlast Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-2.
The star will next face a third-round match against Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei, who defeated American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (11-9), 6-3.
Osaka finally scored a win here at the U.S. Open warm-up after losing in the first round a year ago.
“I was just trying to have fun,” Osaka said. “In the second set I was taking myself too seriously and was down on myself.
“Now I just want to have fun and enjoy it. That’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Osaka advanced with eight aces, 24 winners and breaks on four of five chances against an opponent who was treated on her right knee several times.
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty won a battle of former No. 1 players in just over 90 minutes. The reigning Roland Garros champion beat five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, who was Cincinnati champion in 2011, for the second time this season after a win at the Australian Open.
It was Barty’s 40th victory of 2019 and she goes on to face Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, who beat Polish teenager Iga Swiatek 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).