Tennis

Kei Nishikori fends off spirited Bradley Klahn to advance in U.S. Open

AFP-JIJI, AP

Seventh seed Kei Nishikori spoke of his growing confidence Wednesday after advancing to the U.S. Open third round following a gritty 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over American Bradley Klahn.

Steady rain restricted play to the two main show courts to start the day at Flushing Meadows, where Nishikori, the 2014 runner-up, needed five match points to eventually oust 108th-ranked Klahn.

“I think today’s match will help. There were some up-and-downs and I think I needed to play a lot of tennis, especially because I lost two first rounds, Cincy and Canada,” said Nishikori, who arrived in New York without a hardcourt win since Indian Wells in March.

“I needed to have little more confidence. So I think it was good match today. But before coming into here, I was a little bit worried, of course. I didn’t have much confidence, but I think now it’s getting bigger and more confidence is coming into my head.”

Nishikori has reached the quarterfinals or better at the last five Grand Slam tournaments and will take on either Chilean 31st seed Cristian Garin or Australia’s Alex de Minaur for a spot in the last 16.

However, he was made to scrap against Klahn under the roof at Louis Armstrong Stadium after surrendering a 5-1 cushion in the final set.

“I knew it was going to be a tough one because he has a great serve,” said Nishikori, a semifinalist on his last two appearances at Flushing Meadows.

“A little bit of lost focus. After 5-1, I was serving for the match at 5-2 and he started playing better too. I’m happy to win of course, it was a good match and I’m looking forward to playing the next one.

“Overall I think played good tennis. Some of the moments I think I didn’t play well,” he added.

Nishikori spent just 47 minutes on court in the first round Monday as Argentine qualifier Marco Trungelliti quit with a back injury midway through the second set.

He said the protracted finish to his win over Klahn was not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think always there is positive side if you play a long match,” he said.

“Of course it’s better to win straight sets in one or two hours. Yeah, today I learned couple things. Yeah, sometimes it’s good to have lots of tennis on the court and especially first couple rounds.”

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer might be feeling some lingering aftereffects of their historic Wimbledon final last month.

For Djokovic, it’s in the form of a left shoulder that is hurting right now and probably contributed to slower-than-usual serves on Wednesday night.

For Federer, it’s in the form of slow starts: He’s lost the opening set each of his first two matches at Flushing Meadows for the first time in 19 times he’s entered the Grand Slam tournament.

Djokovic was repeatedly visited by a trainer for shoulder massages at changeovers during a ragged 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 victory over 56th-ranked Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina. Djokovic is a righty, of course, but he uses his other hand both for ball tosses on serves and on his two-fisted backhand — and both were less effective for stretches.

“I was definitely tested. This is something I’ve been carrying for quite a while now,” said Djokovic.

Federer, meanwhile, is not about to start trying new tricks now, despite needing to come back twice already.

He got to the third round by beating Damir Dzhumhur 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 on an afternoon when rain postponed all but nine scheduled singles matches and every doubles contest.

Still, it’s not as if the guy is going to seek some sort of magic solution.

Working up more of a sweat in the gym before heading to the court, say. Or playing an extra practice set.

What he chose to focus on, instead, is looking on the bright side: “Can only do better,” Federer said, “which is a great thing, moving forward.”