AFPROME (AFP-Jiji) Kei Nishikori eased into the second round of the ATP Italian Open in Rome on Monday.
Nishikori — who had lost his two matches on clay in Spain in the previous two weeks — needed 1 hour 48 minutes to hand Spaniard Feliciano Lopez his sixth defeat in seven trips to the Italian capital 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.
“It wasn’t easy match. It was windy so conditions were tough for both of us,” said 24th-ranked Nishikori, who hit 18 winners to counter the seven aces fired down by Lopez.
Nishikori arrived in Rome after losing his two matches on clay in Spain — retiring in Barcelona with a recurring wrist injury problem and losing his opener in Madrid to Novak Djokovic.
“He used a lot of slice and great serves, but I think I handled his slice well,” said Nishikori, who won his last title in Memphis in February 2016.
“The first set could have gone both ways. Luckily I got it and after that, I was more confident and I was playing better tennis.”