After an awkward start to the season, Kei Nishikori kicked off his first Grand Slam event since reaching the final of the US Open last August and advanced to the second round of the tournament with relative ease. He will now come up against Ivan Dodig, whom he has encountered on four previous occasions. Nishikori leads the head-to-head series 3-1.
The Japanese No. 1 took part in a strong opening round match-up against a sturdy challenger in Nicolas Almagro. He defeated the Spaniard in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-2 to close out the match in 2 hours and 7 minutes. Nishikori withstood 15 aces from Almagro, won 74% of his first service points and hit 30 winners to secure his spot in the second round of the Happy Slam.
“Obviously was really tough, tough first match. He could be seeded player, and I know he was injured, but still was tough match. Yeah, was a little bit windy, so we both didn’t play maybe 100%. But I was getting more balls, especially third set, and I was play much better third set.”
Soon afterwards, Ivan Dodig earned his ticket into the second round of the Australian Open with a straight sets victory over Brazil’s Joao Souza. During the 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory, Dodig hit 10 aces, won 71% of his first service points and 27 winners to close out the match in 2 hours and 54 minutes.
This marks the fifth time that Nishikori and Dodig cross paths on the professional tour, with the Japanese star leading the series 3-1. His lone loss took place in Basel two years ago and has since gone 2-0 against the Croat. Although this could prove to be a grueling encounter, Nishikori should come out of it relatively unscathed.
Prediction: Kei Nishikori in Four Sets