Nishikori Ends Seppi’s Long Run
Kei Nishikori won a match of extreme fluctuations on Thursday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
Nishikori, back in Monaco for the first time since his 2012 debut, eventually got the better of qualifier Andreas Seppi and his large number of Italian supporters 6-0, 2-6, 6-3 in one hour and 47 minutes to close play on day five.
Nishikori will now challenge second-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic on Friday. Nishikori leads Monte-Carlo resident Cilic 7-6 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but has lost their past three matches.
There was stunned silence on the second show court when Nishikori won the first seven games of the match against Seppi, who broke the streak by holding to 30 in the second game of the second set. It was the Nishikori’s first 6-0 set since he beat another Italian, Marco Cecchinato, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in the 2017 Wimbledon first round.
Seppi countered and began to push Nishikori deeper behind the baseline, but could not convert two break point opportunities in the third game. From that point on, Seppi dominated the set. At the third time of asking at 2-2, Seppi broke when Nishikori struck a forehand long and broke to love for a 5-2 advantage.
Nishikori was soon left to rue missing a routine forehand approach at 1-0 in the decider, with Seppi serving at 15/40, but the former World No. 4 took his chance in the sixth game. A crushing crosscourt forehand return left Seppi flailing and gave Nishikori a 4-2 lead.
The weight of playing four previous matches this week — including two in qualifying — began to be felt in the legs of Nishikori 34-year-old opponent, who continued to fight and saved one match point at 2-5, 30/40.
Nishikori has now reached the quarter-finals in eight clay-court Masters 1000 tournaments – including five straight at the Mutua Madrid Open (2013-17), highlighted by a 2014 final run (l. to Nadal. His next opponent, Cilic, has advanced to the Monte-Carlo last eight in 2015 (l. to Djokovic) and 2017 (l. to Ramos-Vinolas).
Earlier in the day, Cilic advanced without hitting a ball when Canadian No. 14 seed Milos Raonic withdrew ahead of their match due to a right knee injury.
“It was difficult yesterday, early in the match [against Cecchinato], I rotated on my knee in an uncomfortable position and felt pain,” Raonic told ATPWorldTour.com. “I finished the match with some swelling and I thought through treatment it would be better, but I had more pain today. After consultation with the doctors, I needed to get down to the bottom of the issue and I was at risk to cause further pain. I will know more in the next few days.”