By Simon Cambers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When it comes to inspiration, winning an Olympic medal is pretty hard to beat.

For Japan's Kei Nishikori, the bronze medal he won at the Rio Games earlier this month could be what gets him over the line in a grand slam for the first time.

Sixth-seed Nishikori, a runner-up at the U.S. Open two years ago, held off a fightback from German Benjamin Becker on Tuesday to kickstart his 2016 title bid with a 6-1 6-1 3-6 6-3 victory.

"There is a lot of chance (to get to another final), for sure, if I can play good,” said Nishikori, who will face Russian qualifier Karen Khachanov in round two.

"I got a lot of confidence from Toronto (where he reached the final) and this summer in the Olympics, too.

"I played some good tennis. Beating Rafa (Nadal to win the bronze medal), it was a great experience I had in the Olympics.

"Mentally, physically, I'm ready for these two weeks. It's going to be a big goal for me to get this title."

Nishikori romped through the first two sets as Becker, who famously ended the career of Andre Agassi when he beat him at Flushing Meadows 10 years ago, was completely outplayed.

But the 35-year-old German took control in the third and led by a break early in the fourth before Nishikori righted the ship in the nick of time to secure a spot in the second round.

"He started playing much better so it was tough third and fourth sets but luckily I got out of the last two games," said Nishikori. "It was a pretty good match.

“I'm very satisfied with my tennis today. Credit to him, he played really well in the third and fourth sets.

“But I stepped it up in the last two games. I played a little more aggressive and I took the little chance. It was great match, and I think good start of this week.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)