Nishikori makes great escape
Top seed Juan Martin del Potro survived a stiff test to beat Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Japan Open on Tuesday while defending champion Kei Nishikori flirted with disaster before squeaking through.
Nishikori, who became the host country’s first winner of the $1.43 million event last year, had to dig deep to overcome Austria’s Jurgen Melzer 6-7, 7-5, 6-2 under a closed roof in rain swept Tokyo.
Former US Open champion Del Potro looked rusty in his first match since a shock second-round exit at the New York slam last month.
But the giant Argentine shook off the cobwebs and the effects of a 37-hour flight to the Far East with some typically meaty hitting after dropping the first set.
The world number seven, a finalist in Tokyo in 2008, secured the crucial break in game eight of the decider after a period of sustained pressure on the Baghdatis serve.
Del Potro closed out the match with a thunderous forehand down the line to win in a shade over two hours.
Fourth seed Nishikori extended his win streak on the Ariake centre court to nine in Japan Open and Davis Cup competition but did it the hard way, forced to come back from a set and a break down against the left-handed Melzer.
In a hole after losing the first-set tiebreak 7-4 and on the brink of elimination at 5-2 down, Nishikori battled back superbly and closed out the victory with his 11th ace after two hours and seven minutes.AFP