Australian Open

Nishikori battles into Round 4

2015-01-24 11:31
Kei Nishikori (AFP)

Melbourne - Japan's fifth seed Kei Nishikori battled back from a nervy opening to oust American Steve Johnson Saturday and stay on course for Australian Open glory.

Nishikori won 6-7 (7/9), 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in 2hr 29min on Hisense Arena and will face either Spain's David Ferrer or French 18th seed Gilles Simon in the fourth round.

The 25-year-old, a superstar at home, was nervous early on, losing the opening set in a tiebreaker before a wildly cheering pro-Japanese crowd.

But he gradually wore down the 38th-ranked American to reach the round of 16 for the fourth straight year.

"He was playing aggressive, hitting really deep, good serves. I really couldn't do anything," Nishikori said of the opening set.

"The tiebreak is always tight points. I just couldn't hit through. I didn't want to risk it too much. So that's why I couldn't get the tiebreak.

"After playing the first set, I started feeling little bit better, not relaxed, but no pressure. I started thinking about just going for everything."

Nishikori began to move better from the second set onwards.

"I started playing more, side to side. I was hitting only to his backhand, especially in the first set," he said.

"But after the second set I changed my mind and tried to hit through every ball. My return was much better and I hit a couple of return winners."

The US Open finalist served at 65 percent, hit 49 winners and made 24 unforced errors and only lost his serve once in a dominant performance.

Nishikori broke Johnson's serve seven times and was helped along by the American double-faulting nine times.

The Japanese star said the situation has changed for him since he moved up to the number five ranking in the world after reaching the US Open final.

"Obviously, number five is a different feeling than outside of top 10 because you still feel a lot of confidence, but you feel other things off the court," he said.

"I feel more pressure than before. I try not to think too much. But you obviously feel it a little bit.

"It's still not comfortable for me to be in this ranking. But I think I need more time to get used to it. If I can play good tennis, I think I have a lot of chances to stay here for the whole of this year.

"I need to practice hard and prepare well. Hopefully I can do good this week and next week."

If Nishikori gets through his next match he could face defending champion Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  australian open  |  kei nishikori  |  tennis
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