Kei Nishikori has advanced to the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger Tour's Caribbean Open, his first tennis tournament in 20 months.
The 33-year-old defeated American Mitchell Krueger 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round on Thursday, June 15 in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico.
With a determined effort, solid footwork and an effective mix of shot selections, Nishikori overcame a mediocre start to book a spot in the final eight.
Nishikori provided glimpses of his best tennis skills from past years, which propelled him to 12 tournament titles on the top-level ATP Tour. (Watch highlights of the match on YouTube.)
"I couldn't play with patience at the start. But I had everything my way in the second half of the match," Nishikori told reporters after the match, according to Kyodo News.
Fatigue Was a Factor
Nishikori, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip in January 2022 and had his comeback delayed after sustaining a right ankle injury, admitted that fatigue was a factor in the match.
"I have this unbelievable tiredness that is close to the one I had after playing a Grand Slam semifinal, [and] I'll do my best again in the next [match]," Nishikori was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.
After dropping the first set, Nishikori took a 4-1 lead in the second set en route to erasing Krueger's advantage.
In the decisive third set, Nishikori started strong and took a commanding 4-0 lead. Holding serve with a 5-2 advantage, Nishikori led 40-30. Kruger then evened the game at 40-40 before Nishikori delivered back-to-back forehand winners to close out the match.
Up Next for Nishikori
The Shimane native will face Australia's Adam Walton in the quarterfinals on Friday. Walton is ranked 249th in the world.
Nishikori beat American Christian Langmo 6-2, 6-4 in the opening round of the Caribbean Open on Tuesday.
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Author: Ed Odeven