Japanese teenager Kei Nishikori beat American Robert Kendrick in three sets yesterday to advance to the second round of the Japan Open.
Officials took cover indoors as rain from an approaching typhoon dampened the tournament for a second day.
Nishikori downed Kendrick 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 6-2 at Ariake Colosseum and will meet Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round today.
Defending champion David Ferrer of Spain — the top-seeded player at the US$869,000 tournament — has a first-round bye along with second-seeded Andy Roddick of the US.
Nishikori took control of the match when he broke Kendrick with a blistering crosscourt forehand to go ahead 3-2 in the third set. He won the match when Kendrick’s return in the final game was long.
“He’s got a very good serve,” the 18-year-old Nishikori said of his opponent. “I knew I just had to wait for a chance and finally I got it in the third set and was able to break him.”
Nishikori was returning to Japan after losing in the first round of this tournament in his debut last year.
He beat American James Blake at Delray Beach in February to win his first ATP singles title and also beat World No. 4 Ferrer in the third round of the US Open before falling to Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth.
Nishikori said his experience in the past year has made him a better player.
“It’s a huge relief to win here in Japan,” said Nishikori, who is 84th in the world rankings.
“Last year, I was very nervous and couldn’t play my game. This year I was nervous too but was able to settle down and I think that’s a result of the confidence I’ve built up in the last year,” he said.
Nishikori has given the men’s game a boost in Japan, which — until his win earlier this year — had not had a winner in men’s singles on the ATP tour since Shuzo Matsuoka won in Seoul in 1992.
Taiwanese men’s No. 1 Lu Yen-hsun reached the second round by defeating Luka Gregorc of Slovenina 6-4, 7-6. The world No. 73 proved to good for Gregorc, who is more than 150 places lower on the ATP world rankings.
It was third time unlucky for Gregorc after he beat Taiwan’s Jimmy Wang and Chen Ti in the qualifying tournament.
Lu is the only Taiwanese player in the main draw as compatriot Yang Tsung-hua, 17, also failed to make it through qualifying. The reigning boy’s French Open champion lost in straight sets to Toshihide Matsui of Japan.
In other first-round matches, Croatia’s Roko Karanusic defeated Japanese qualifier Hiroki Kondo 6-2, 6-2. Karanusic will next meet No. 9 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
Wayne Odesnik of the US downed compatriot Kevin Kim 6-4, 6-3 to set up a clash with Serb Viktor Troicki, while Jesse Levine, also of the US, rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 win over Thailand’s Danai Udomchoke. Levine will face Ferrer in the second round.
In the US$175,000 women’s tournament, Israel’s Shahar Peer, seeded sixth, defeated Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3, 6-1. The 38-year-old Date-Krumm, who made her comeback to pro tennis this year after a 12-year absence, won this tournament four times in the 1990s.
Date-Krumm said she has a goal in mind: “I want to play the all-Japan championships in November,” said the veteran who says she has not decided if she can make a comeback to the WTA. “I will see how it goes, but I want to try.”
Date-Krumm said she remains unsure of how to proceed.
“It’s not easy to fill the blank of 11 years and a half. I was a bit disappointed to lose,” she said.
“But I’ve only been at this for five months. I felt much better than I did in the Pan Pacific [last month]. Two weeks ago I couldn’t go at 100 percent,” she said. “I have to remain positive.”
Dane Caroline Wozniacki upheld her top seeding with a defeat of Argentine Gisela Dulko 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TONY PHILLIPS
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