PARIS (Reuters) – Japan’s Kei Nishikori surrendered two sets 6-1 but still managed to battle past Britain’s Dan Evans on Sunday and into the second round of the French Open.
The 30-year-old, playing only his fifth match of the season after a recovery from elbow surgery sidelined him early in the year and then a positive COVID-19 test ruled him out of the U.S. Open, won 1-6 6-1 7-6(3) 1-6 6-4.
“I kind of knew what was the problem in the first set,” Nishikori told reporters. “I think I was rushing too much.
“I was a little more patient from the second set. Things started working well for me. It was raining heavy. It was not the usual situation but from the second set, I start playing better. But there were many ups and downs.”
Evans, the 32nd seed, looked on course for his first ever French Open win as he romped through the opening set but Nishikori polished off the second set in equally quick time.
Nishikori led 5-2 in the third set only to be dragged into a tiebreaker, which he won, but again lapsed as Evans hit back to take the match into a deciding set.
A topsy-turvy match saw three-times French Open quarter-finalist Nishikori seize control to lead 3-0 but again Evans reeled off the next three games and had a break point in the seventh that he could not convert.
That proved crucial as Nishikori produced a couple of stunning points to break the Evans serve at 4-5 and seal the victory, only his second of the year.
The world number 35, who has now won 24 of his 30 five-set matches in Grand Slam tournaments, will take on Italy’s Stefano Travaglia in the second round.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond and Ian Chadband)