Nishikori Maintains Hold Over Berdych

Kei Nishikori could easily have endured a short stay at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, six years on from his debut. But the Japanese star dug deep on Monday to maintain his hold on Tomas Berdych, a resident of the Monaco principality. Nishikori triumphed 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 over one hour and 46 minutes to improve to 5-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

“It’s actually great to come back this tournament,” said Nishikori, who received treatment on a sore wrist. “I haven’t got a lot of matches this year. I hope I can play more matches on clay. I always enjoy this Europe season… I feel like Tomas was struggling little bit in second, and third too. Nobody’s expecting I think 100 per cent in the first couple of matches.

Berdych was pin-point accurate in the first three games — winning 13 of the first 17 points — and he looked set to add to his lone win over Nishikori in the 2012 Monte-Carlo third round.

But it was a different story in the second set when Berdych saved two break point in the first game, prior to a lapse in concentration. From a 1-2 deficit, Nishikori won seven straight games — clinching 28 of the 38 points – including service breaks in the fifth and seventh games, then in the first game of the decider.

Berdych wilted in the heat, winning just seven points in the third set and Nishikori will now prepare to challenge Russian Daniil Medvedev in the second round.

Canadian No. 14 seed Milos Raonic struck 22 aces and won 82 per cent of his first service points to beat Monaco wild card Lucas Catarina 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours and 27 minutes. Raonic has reached the quarter-finals at the Monte-Carlo Country Club on three occasions (2014 (l. to Wawrinka) and 2015-16 (l. to Berdych both times). He now awaits the winner of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Damir Dzumhur and qualifier Marco Cecchinato of Italy.

Top seed and 10-time champion Rafael Nadal will begin his campaign against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene, who knocked out Dzumhur’s compatriot, lucky loser Mirza Basic, 6-4, 7-6(3) in 88 minutes.

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