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Nishikori overcomes Diallo and advances to the French Open

Nishikori overcomes Diallo and advances to the French Open


Kei Nishikori defeated Canadian Gabriel Diallo 7-5, 7-6, 3-6, 1-6, 6-4 in 4 hours and 22 minutes to qualify for the second round of the French Open in Paris on Sunday.

In a showdown that lasted the entire game, the Japanese veterans' precise groundstrokes and big match experience propelled him past the 22-year-old from Montreal.

The win is Nishikori's first since August last season; he hit 45 winners and broke serve six times in the closely contested match.

Read more: Six Canadians, including Andreescu, will compete at French Open

However, it was initially the Canadian who imposed his game in the early stages of the first round encounter.

Diallo earned the first service break of the match and took a 4-1 lead in the opening set as he kept his Japanese competitor off balance with heavy groundstrokes and his powerful serve.

Trailing 5-2 in the first inning, Nishikori dug in and started his comeback. He broke Diallo to get within a game and then saved a few set points before holding serve for 5-all.

Another loose service game from the Montreal native proved costly as the 34-year-old from Japan sealed the opener 7-5 in 61 minutes.

In the second set, the players opened with consecutive breaks of service before leveling the score.

At the business end of the second, Nishikori turned away a set-point chance from the Canadian before holding serve for 5-all.

The Japanese former world number four then prevailed in a tiebreak, winning the first four points en route to a 7-6(3) second set in 71 minutes.

Faced with a huge two-set deficit to hold on to, things turned around for the Montrealer midway through the third.

Read: ATP Power Rankings – the most open French Open in decades

With Diallo staring down two break points at 2-3, 15-40, the Montreal native managed to grab a crucial serve and escape the crucial game.

With his newfound confidence, the 22-year-old raised his game, putting four straight games behind him to take the set in 39 minutes.

The pressure and high-level tennis continued in the fourth, as the Montrealer controlled play with his booming serve and steady groundstrokes.

Applying more aggression from the baseline, he broke twice, reaching a 6-1 scoreline in just 39 minutes and leveling the match at two sets.

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Nishikori took a medical timeout prior to the fifth set, and it paid off as he regained his consistency.

The three-time French Open quarter-finalist kept the Canadian at bay with his counterpunching skills from the baseline and clever net play.

At 5-6, Diallo finally buckled under the pressure, misfiring a forehand long to seal victory for the 34-year-old from Japan.

It was Nishikori's first appearance at a Grand Slam since the 2021 US Open and the 103rd victory of his career at a major.

Meanwhile, it is Diallo's first ever main draw loss at a Grand Slam. He successfully reached Roland-Garros qualifying for the first time in his career with three consecutive wins.




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