ReutersNEW YORK (Reuters) — Kei Nishikori fended off Bradley Klahn 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the second round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday as the 2014 Flushing Meadows runner-up continued his bid for a first Grand Slam title.
What appeared at the outset to be a routine match for the seventh-seeded Japanese turned into a surprise challenge from American Klahn.
After a tepid start, Klahn won all his first serve points in the second set and saved three of the four break point opportunities against him.
Nishikori, who reached the semifinals last year and in 2016, broke Klahn to take the third set, switching the momentum back in his favor and dominating the longer rallies.
Inconsistency ultimately proved Klahn’s downfall as the 29-year-old committed 62 unforced errors in the match, 30 more than his opponent.
“[In the] second and fourth sets, I didn’t play aggressive as like the first or third sets. That cost me a set,” Nishikori said.
“He served pretty fast and accurate, too. And also [his] second serve, he hits big. I think he has a great serve for his height. He’s not the biggest guy on the tour. But I think he has great serve.”
Nishikori, who had rued his lack of playing time after his first-round opponent was forced to retire, was joined by his usual crowd of excitable fans, shielded from the soggy conditions under Louis Armstrong’s retractable roof.
He will face either 31st-seeded Cristian Garin of Chile or Australia’s Alex de Minaur in the third round.
Djokovic battles through pain
Meanwhile, reigning champion Novak Djokovic battled a shoulder problem that hampered his serve and backhand as he secured a 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 win over Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero and reached the third round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday.
Djokovic, who had work done on his left shoulder during his pre-match warm-up inside Arthur Ashe Stadium earlier in the day, was in clear distress when he took a medical timeout while leading 4-3 in the first set.
“I was definitely tested and this is something I have been carrying for quite a while now,” Djokovic said when asked about the injury. “It wasn’t easy, obviously, playing with the pain but you have to find a way to fight and hope you get some lucky shots.”
Djokovic returned to court to close out the first set and then had more treatment before Londero, playing in only his second main draw match at Flushing Meadows, broke him twice for a 3-0 lead in the second.
So bothered was Djokovic by his backhand that in the third game of the second set, at 30-30 and with Londero well out of position, he failed to get even a soft backhand to the open court over the net.
But he roared back to take the next five games, a stretch during which he managed to fire off a number of backhand winners, en route to strolling through the tiebreak before getting more treatment on his shoulder.
While Djokovic was nowhere near his best, Londero, who is in the midst of a breakout season that saw him win his first title, will be happy to have played at such a high level in his first career meeting with the Serbian.
Kyrgios faces more punishment
Nick Kyrgios, one of the sport’s most combustible characters, who was recently fined a six-figure sum over a meltdown in Cincinnati, could be in more trouble for describing the ATP as corrupt after his opening match at the U.S. Open.
The Australian, famous for his outbursts on and off the court, managed to keep reasonably calm as he beat American Steve Johnson 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 in his first-round clash on Tuesday.
But, in the post-match news conference, the mercurial 24-year-old caused another stir after being asked about the $113,000 fine which followed his second-round defeat by Russia’s Karen Khachanov at the Cincinnati Masters earlier this month.
The ATP said in an emailed statement to Reuters that “the comments made by Nick Kyrgios after his first round match in New York will be assessed under the Player Major Offense provision under ATP Rules.”