Tokyo - Local
hero Kei Nishikori put down a marker in his quest for a third Japan
Open title as he outgunned France's Benoit Paire on Wednesday to reach
the last eight.
The third seed, who lifted the trophy in 2012 and 2014, completed a
6-3, 7-5 victory despite late resistance from Paire to avenge a
semi-final defeat inflicted by the hulking Frenchman in Tokyo three
Meanwhile, former champion Nick Kyrgios flickered into life for just
long enough to dispatch Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) in the
Nishikori tore out of the blocks, winning the first five games before Paire finally got on the scoreboard.
Paire tugged at his beard in despair after Nishikori snaffled the
opening set but raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set before the
Japanese number one rattled off five straight games.
An increasingly prickly Paire pulled off an outrageous
between-the-legs volley and subsequently levelled with a backhand
rocket, letting out a guttural roar as Nishikori shook his head in
But the world number 12 almost took Paire's head off to break again
for 6-5, further irritating the Frenchman, who flirted with a penalty
point after kicking his racquet into his chair.
Nishikori, who won the last of his 11 career titles in Memphis two
years ago, closed out the match with a ferocious cross-court forehand
that Paire battered wide.
"I had a few dangerous moments but I stuck to my game," said Nishikori.
"It was important to stay with him and dig in. I'm in the quarter-finals now and hopefully I can kick on from here."
Kyrgios appeared a little
distracted at times but the controversial Aussie became a different
animal after Nishioka, who won his first ATP tour title at last week's
Shenzhen Open, forced a tiebreak in the second set.
Roused into action, Kyrgios unleashed a string of monstrous shots to steam through the breaker.
The 23-year-old, who has complained that playing the late season tour
in Asia makes him feel depressed and lonely, fired 20 aces and sealed
victory with a flamboyant backhand overhead after 73 minutes to book a
place in the last 16.
Kyrgios has been fined for "tanking" matches in Shanghai the past two
years but captured one of his four career titles at the 2016 Japan
He faces eighth seed Richard Gasquet for a place in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson survived a scare against
Australian Matthew Ebden, the second seed coming through 4-6, 7-6 (7/1)
to reach the last 16.
The South African plays American Frances Tiafoe in the last 16.
Elsewhere, three-time Tokyo finalist Milos Raonic, the tournament's
sixth seed, overpowered Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki 6-3, 7-6
(7/2) to reach the quarter-finals.
Russian Daniil Medvedev awaits the Canadian after beating Slovakia's
Martin Klizan 6-4, 6-3, while Australia's Alex De Minaur beat France's
Gilles Simon 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in first-round action.