Nishikori first player to reach second round of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Kei Nishikori beat Reilly Opelka in Dubai. — Twitter
Kei Nishikori beat Reilly Opelka in Dubai. — Twitter

Dubai - Nishikori says he played a solid match today

By Team KT

Published: Sun 14 Mar 2021, 11:12 PM

Last updated: Sun 14 Mar 2021, 11:25 PM

Kei Nishikori became the first player to reach second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Sunday. The Japanese player overcame Reilly Opelka 3-6 6-3 6-4 to set up a second round clash with fifth seed David Goffin of Belgium.

Injuries have disturbed Nishikori’s recent seasons as he skipped a number of tournaments due to his fitness issues.

And the Japanese star got off to a poor start on Sunday as Opelka broke him to lead 5-3 before taking the first set.

Nishikori, however, broke back to lead 3-1 in the second only to face an injury blow as he needed his right ankle strapped.

Nishikori then appeared to have no problem as he went on to take the match to the third set.

Opelka double-faulted in the final set to give Nishikori a 4-3 lead which eventually decided the match.

“I played a very solid match today. I tried to focus on my first service game because I knew there wouldn’t be many chances on my return game. I tried to make my first serve and I think I did quite enough. I surprised myself how I returned well on break points,” Nishikori said after the match.

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, was delighted to see Nishikori back in Dubai.

“We are delighted to welcome Kei Nishikori to Dubai for a second time, and we were all relieved to see that the problem with his ankle was not a serious one,” McLoughlin said. “We wish him well as we anticipate many exciting contests in the days ahead.”

In another match, Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan eased past Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in straight sets (6-4 7-6). Bublik dominated the match and gave Nishioka no chance to stage a comeback.

Meanwhile, Malek Jaziri of Tunisia reached a landmark as he celebrated the 100th Tour victory of his career to reach the second round of the tournament.

Jaziri, though, achieved the feat after his opponent, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, retired with an injured right arm when the match was delicately poised at 3-3 in the first set.

"I'm sad to win this way because I have a lot of respect for him and he's a really nice guy and hopefully he'll recover as soon as possible," said Jaziri.

The Tunisian was happy to be back in Dubai.

"It's lots of very good feelings to be back here at this high level and to compete. I keep believing that I can do it and hopefully the people who believe in me, I can give them a lot of joy,” he said.

"I'm lucky today to be playing at this level. I'm happy to be here to enjoy these moments. The most important thing for me is my attitude. I have improved a lot. My forehand has improved, I've changed my serve, my slice has improved. I'm putting a lot of things together and hopefully it will pay off."

Meanwhile, Russian Aslan Karatsev was in top form as he dismantled Egor Gerasimov of Belarus 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the second round.

And Frenchman Jeremy Chardy overcame Albert Ramos Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. After winning the first, Chardy faced some resistance from Ramos Vinolas in the second set. But he recovered to win the third set and match.

Despite the withdrawals of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the Dubai event will still see a lot of top-ranked players.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem and rising Russian star Andrey Rublev are among the top contenders for the title this week.

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