French Open 2019

Nishikori digs deep to progress

Japan's Kei Nishikori stretching for a backhand return to France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their French Open second-round match in Paris yesterday. He recovered from a slow start to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Japan's Kei Nishikori stretching for a backhand return to France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their French Open second-round match in Paris yesterday. He recovered from a slow start to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Japanese 7th seed ousts Tsonga in four sets; Nadal makes light work of German qualifier

PARIS • At the end of a three-hour battle on Court Philippe-Chatrier yesterday, there was warm applause but it was not for home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The plaudits were for Japan's Kei Nishikori, who overcame a sluggish start to see off the Frenchman 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 and reach the third round of the French Open.

The seventh seed looked tight in the opening set before finding his range, rallying back from a break down in the fourth to advance in solid fashion.

"It was a tough game, I knew that it was not easy. I managed to catch up in the fourth set (after going down 0-3)," said Nishikori. "It was good to be able to go through the game firmly, and finally to bounce back without giving up."

Tsonga is a familiar foe, with the pair having met three times on the Grand Slam stage before yesterday.

At the 2015 French Open, he edged Nishikori in a five-set thriller to reach the semi-finals.

Their second-round clash yesterday did not go the distance, but the Japanese still had to dig deep to clinch victory in 3hr 4min.

  • 88-2

    Rafael Nadal's French Open record after yesterday's second-round win over German qualifier Yannick Maden.

"Tough win. Always enjoy sharing the court with @tsonga7. On to next round," the 29-year-old Nishikori later tweeted with a picture of himself talking to his team while he was on a treadmill.

He will hope that he can keep his adrenaline running when he next faces Serbian 31st seed Laslo Djere for a place in the round of 16.

In yesterday's other matches, sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas also had to dig deep with a tense four-set victory over plucky Bolivian Hugo Dellien.

The rising Greek star, expected to reach the latter stages, fought back to win 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal kept his bid for a record-extending 12th French Open title with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory over German qualifier Yannick Maden.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion will next play Belgian 27th seed David Goffin. The Spaniard's win-loss record at the French Open now reads an astounding 88-2.

"He's a good player, he had won four matches - three in qualifications - going into this match, he had gained confidence," an always gracious Nadal told a courtside interviewer on Court Suzanne Lenglen, where he has never lost.

"For me, it is an important victory. Playing here in Paris, at Roland Garros, is always incredible.

Third seed Roger Federer, back at the tournament for the first time since 2015, eased past German lucky loser Oscar Otte 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

In the women's draw, second seed Karolina Pliskova cruised into the third round with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Slovakian qualifier Kristina Kucova.

The Czech will next play Croatian 31st seed Petra Martic, who pulverised home hope Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-1.

Former champion Garbine Muguruza also cantered into the third round with a routine 6-4, 6-1 victory over Swede Johanna Larsson.

The Spaniard, seeded 19th, relied on her booming forehand throughout, will face Elina Svitolina after the ninth seed advanced without hitting a ball yesterday.

Her opponent, fellow Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova, withdrew from the tournament with an injury.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline 'Nishikori digs deep to progress'. Print Edition | Subscribe