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27 February 2024

Nishikori survives dogfight, urges Davis Cup revamp

Pic: Getty Images


Japan's Kei Nishikori called for changes to the Davis Cup format after coming through a gruelling five-set dogfight in his opening match at the Australian Open on Monday.

The fifth seed was on court for three-and-a-half hours in sapping heat before he completed a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 win over 48th-ranked Russian Andrey Kuznetsov to maintain his unbeaten record in five-set matches in Melbourne.

Nishikori has pulled out of Japan's Davis Cup tie against France in Tokyo the week after the Australian Open, blaming the scheduling of the teams event.

‘I’m not playing because of the schedule, it's gonna be too tight,’ Nishikori said.

‘Going to South America, Rio and Buenos Aires, and if I play Davis Cup, that's way too much for my body and Indian Wells and Miami (tournaments) are coming up after. So I just decided not to play.’

Nishikori also said changes to format of the Davis Cup, the annual international competition billed as the 'World Cup of tennis', were overdue to make it shorter.

Davis Cup ties are spread across the year and teams that reach the final will have played four weekends at venues around the world.

‘I hope they can make some changes. Yeah, right now I think it's way too much to play three times or even if you play final, maybe four times,’ he said.

‘I think that has to change, for sure, to make it shorter. I think all the players — I don't know if all, but I think most of them are hoping to change.’

Five-set king

It was Nishikori's fourth five-set win at the Australian Open, and set him up for a second-round encounter with Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

Nishikori dispelled any doubts about a hip injury which forced him to withdraw from an exhibition event in Sydney after losing to Grigor Dimitrov in the Brisbane International final earlier this month.

‘I’m feeling really good after I got hurt in Brisbane and I was ready for play today,’ he said.

‘Unfortunately I had to play five sets in a long match, but, yeah, I should be okay for next one.

‘It wasn't easy, especially mentally and I should have finished it in four sets.’

Kuznetsov had Nishikori in trouble in the opening set, breaking him twice before serving out the set with his third set point.

But the Japanese star found his groove in the second set, reeling off a double break to level the set scores in 30 minutes.

Kuznetsov wouldn't lie down and got an early break in the third set in rising temperatures on Hisense Arena, but Nishikori quickly broke back.

Nishikori took command in the third set after Kuznetsov began to show the effects of the battle, noticeably limping between points.

But the Russian refused to give in and fought back from 2-5 down in a tiebreaker to take the punishing match into a fifth set.

Nishikori stormed home in the final set, grabbing an early break and rounding it off when Kuznetsov double-faulted on the second match point.