Kei Nishikori recovered from a set down to record his first victory at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Tuesday, beating in-form Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
The Rotterdam debutant, who captured his 12th ATP Tour title at the Brisbane International last month (d. Medvedev), won 84 per cent of first-serve points (37/44) to advance after two hours and 11 minutes. Nishikori improves to 9-1 at tour-level this season and 2-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Herbert. Last week, Herbert reached his third ATP Tour singles final, falling in straight-sets to countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Open Sud de France.
“It wasn’t easy, as he was playing good tennis and serving well,” said Nishikori. “I had a little bit of trouble with my return game and couldn’t convert the important points. I just tried to play steady, as I wasn’t playing bad, and I tried to stay aggressive.”
Nishikori will meet Ernests Gulbis for a spot in the quarter-finals. The 30-year-old Latvian defeated fellow lucky loser Marius Copil 6-2, 6-4 in 72 minutes. Nishikori is unbeaten in two FedEx ATP Head2Head clashes against Gulbis.
“[Gulbis] is not easy, especially indoors where he uses his great serve and aggressive play really well,” said Nishikori. “I just need to stay focused and get used to the conditions a little bit more.”
After saving five break points in a 13-minute game at 3-3, with aggression behind his serve and forehand, Herbert made a crucial breakthrough. The Frenchman stepped into the court, rushing his opponent into a series of errors to claim eight of the next 10 points and a one-set lead.
Nishikori raised his level early in the second set after failing to convert two break points, in a marathon 15-minute game, for a 2-0 lead. The Japanese No. 1 showcased remarkable court coverage en route to his first break of the match and won five straight games from 1-1 to force a decider. Nishikori rode the momentum into the third set, breaking for a 2-1 lead with back-to-back forehand winners before claiming victory after an unforced backhand error from Herbert.
If only Tallon Griekspoor played in Rotterdam every week. The home favourite pulled off an upset for the second year in a row at his home tournament, stunning Rolex Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to stroll into the second round. Griekspoor, No. 211 in the ATP Rankings, never backed down against the 6’6″ Russian, winning 13 of his 21 net points (62%) and nearly matching Khachanov’s winner tally (19 to 20).
“It’s unbelievable,” Griekspoor said of the home environment. “It’s so nice to play in this court. The evening matches are amazing.”
Both of Griekspoor’s tour-level wins have come at the ATP 500 event. Last year, he beat Swiss Stan Wawrinka for his first tour-level victory. The 22-year-old Dutchman will face Montpellier champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano for a place in the quarter-finals.
Did You Know? Nishikori has won his opening match at each of his past 11 tour-level events. The World No. 7’s most recent opening-match loss came against Robin Haase at the Rogers Cup in August 2018.
Paolo Lorenzi of Italy opened up main draw action on Monday at the New York Open by scoring the first upset of the tournament, earning a marathon 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 6-4 win over No. 8 seed Tennys Sandgren of the United States.
Both players won 106 points on the day, but it was the Italian who prevailed in the most crucial moments. He scored the lone break of the match at 1-1 in the final set and rode the momentum to victory after two hours and 32 minutes.
The win gives the 37-year-old his first main draw victory since the 2018 US Open. He has primarily competed on the ATP Challenger Tour over the past six months, but qualified for the main draw this year at ATP Tour events in Doha and Cordoba.
Next up for Lorenzi is the winner between Ryan Harrison of the United States and Peter Polansky of Canada.
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Bernard Tomic also picked up his first ATP Tour main draw win of 2019 with a convincing 6-4, 6-2 victory over Lukas Lacko in just 53 minutes. The Aussie will next face top seed John Isner.
The final singles match on Monday’s schedule features No. 7 seed Jordan Thompson of Australia taking on wild card and hometown favourite Noah Rubin.
Germany’s Maximilian Marterer will try to do what no man has done before at the Argentina Open: beat Dominic Thiem. The left-hander secured a second-round meeting with Thiem after dismissing local qualifier Facundo Bagnis 6-4, 6-2 on Monday evening in Buenos Aires.
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Marterer broke in the third game and sailed the rest of the way, never facing a break point against the 28-year-old, No. 148 in the ATP Rankings. Thiem and Marterer faced off at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle in 2017, a 7-5, 6-3 win for Thiem. The top-seeded Austrian is 9-0 in his two appearances in the Argentine capital, including a semi-final win over Rafael Nadal in 2016.
Elsewhere on Monday, Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego upset sixth seed Nicolas Jarry, the 2018 Brasil Open finalist, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3. Sonego, 23, will play Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena or Taro Daniel of Japan for a place in the quarter-finals.
Christian Garin of Chile rallied from down a set and a break to outlast #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. His reward is a battle with third seed Marco Cecchinato of Italy in the second round. Fittingly, their only previous meeting came four years ago in the qualifying rounds at Buenos Aires, a match won by the Italian in straight sets.
Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 2017 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist (l. to Nadal), ended Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva’s run 6-3, 6-4. Ramos-Vinolas will meet either countryman David Ferrer or eighth seed Malek Jaziri.
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