Japanese star Kei Nishikori faced a sturdy challenge on Thursday morning in Melbourne but eventually found his way into the third round where he will now meet Steve Johnson for the third time. The two clashed just a few short weeks ago in Brisbane, where Nishikori scored a straight sets victory to bring the Watch the match here: head-to-head series to 2-0 in his favour.
While few assumed that Ivan Dodig would put up a significant challenge for last year’s US Open runner-up, that was exactly what the Croatian did. He snatched the first set and looked on his way to a two-set lead before he allowed Nishikori to mount an eventual comeback to close out the match in four sets. The fifth seed hit 7 aces, 52 winners and won 75% of his first service points to close out the match 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6(0).
Up against a crafty Colombian opponent Santiago Giraldo, Steve Johnson looked sharp and needed just the bare minimum to advance to the following stage of the tournament. The American hit 17 aces, 17 winners and won 83% of his first service points to close out an uneventful match 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
This marks the third time that these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, and the second time since the start of the season. In Brisbane, Nishikori was in complete command of the match and needed just a pair of break to defeat his American adversary 6-4 7-5. While Johnson is capable of sneaking out a set, Nishikori will be the better player in the later stages of the match.
Prediction: Kei Nishikori in Four Sets