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Australian Open: Nishikori survives five-set dogfight to advance

/ 12:42 PM January 16, 2017
Kei Nishikori of Japan watches a return during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 12, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / PAUL CROCK

Kei Nishikori of Japan watches a return during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL CROCK

Japan’s big hope Kei Nishikori survived a gruelling five-set examination in the first round to advance in scorching conditions at the Australian Open on Monday.

The fifth seeded Nishikori came through a dogfight with 48th-ranked Russian Andrey Kuznetsov to win 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 in 3hr 34min and maintain his unbeaten record in five-set matches in Melbourne.

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It was Nishikori’s fourth five-set win at the Australian Open, and set him up for a second-round encounter with Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

“It wasn’t easy, especially mentally and I should have finished it in four sets,” Nishikori said.

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“I was more relaxed and really focused in the fifth set and I’m really happy to get through the first round.”

Kuznetsov had Nishikori in trouble in the opening set, breaking him twice before serving out the set with his third set point.

But the Japanese star found his groove in the second set, reeling off a double break to level the set scores in 30 minutes.

Kuznetsov wouldn’t lie down and got an early break in the third set in rising temperatures on Hisense Arena, but Nishikori quickly broke back.

Nishikori applied bags of ice to the back of his neck during the changeovers.

Nishikori took command in the third set after Kuznetsov began to show the effects of the battle, noticeably limping between points.

But the Russian refused to give in and fought back from 2-5 down in a tiebreaker to take the gruelling match into a fifth set.

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Nishikori came home strongly in the final set, grabbing an early break and rounding it off when Kuznetsov double-faulted on the second match point.

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TAGS: Andrey Kuznetsov, Australian Open, Kei Nishikori, Tennis
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