PARIS (REUTERS) - Kei Nishikori puffed out his cheeks in relief after he beat Spanish dangerman Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-4 3-6 2-6 6-4 in a French Open third-round tussle that featured 16 breaks of serve on Friday.
The result left fifth seed Nishikori as the only Japanese player still standing of the six who started the tournament – but at times it seemed like the 26-year-old might join the exodus.
The players fought out 37 break points and each dropped serve eight times.
The 32-year-old Verdasco even won more points than Nishikori in the match, 154 to 151.
In the end, however, Nishikori’s younger limbs carried him over the finishing line, setting up a fourth-round meeting with French favourite Richard Gasquet.
“I’m sad that I lost, but I’m also happy of the way that I played in general,” said Verdasco, who is no stranger to five-set marathons.
He kept compatriot Rafael Nadal on court for more than five hours at the Australian Open in 2009.
“I saw the stats, and I won more points than him and I lost the match. That can happen in tennis. In other sports if you make more points than your opponent, you win. It’s just a pity for me that I lost.”
After winning such an exhausting battle on the hottest day of this year’s championships, Nishikori was a man of few words.
“Tough, tough five sets. It wasn’t easy, but very happy to win,” said the 2014 US Open runner-up.