French Open round-up: Kei Nishikori rues injury woes after exit
Kei Nishikori believes his career is doomed to be cursed by injury after he became the biggest casualty of this year’s French Open on Monday.
The ninth-seed crashed out of the first round, going down 7-6, 6-1, 6-2 to Slovakia’s world No 59 Martin Klizan, just 12 months after becoming the first Japanese man in 75 years to make the fourth round in Paris.
Nishikori, 24, was clearly still hampered by the back injury which forced him to quit the Madrid Masters final against Rafael Nadal with the cold, damp conditions on Court One further conspiring against him.
“It sucks,” said Nishikori, who is coached by 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang.
“But this is my tennis life now. Injuries will come again for sure so I have to take care of my body. I will have to be ready and do all that I can to stay healthy.”
Nishikori had been in impressive form on European clay this year, winning the Barcelona title before reaching the final in Madrid where he took the first set against Nadal.
But the back injury then forced him to skip the Rome Masters and he came to Paris hopelessly under-prepared.
“This was the first time I was playing points since Madrid. I didn’t hit a serve 100 percent before today so there was no rhythm,” explained Nishikori who is no stranger to injury.
Back in August 2009 he underwent surgery on his right elbow and didn’t play again until April 2010.
“I was just happy to finish the match. The performance wasn’t perfect but I did not have much practice. I have been playing well on clay this year so it’s sad to lose here. At least I didn’t get another injury.”
Nishikori looked distinctly half-fit on Monday. He was broken 10 times, hit 10 double faults and committed 40 unforced errors.
Left-handed Klizan, one of six former junior champions in the main draw this year, was 2-0 ahead in the first set before Nishikori briefly rallied for a 5-3 lead.
However, the Slovak reeled off 10 of the next 12 games on his way to a two sets to love lead.
Klizan, 24, then broke in the first and fifth games of the third set as he moved smoothly towards victory.
Klizan goes on to face Robin Haase of the Netherlands for a place in the last 32.
Haase put out 2007 semi-finalist Nikolay Davydenko of Russia 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 in his first round match.
Meanwhile, second seed Novak Djokovic entertained the Roland Garros crowd but kept his focus as he made light work of Portuguese Joao Sousa to reach the second round of the French Open with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win on Monday.
The Serbian clinked bottles with a ball boy he had invited to sit on his chair as the umpire was pondering whether to halt play as light rain fell on Philippe Chatrier court. “We had a nice chat. He’s a tennis player, so I asked him how long he has been playing and how he is enjoying his time as a ball kid,” Djokovic told a news conference.
“It was a nice, fun time, something unusual for the grand slams. But we waited for around 10 minutes in the pouring rain on the court, so I felt there was something I should do and make a new friend.
“He accepted the offer to sit down, which I didn’t think he would do. He’s a very spontaneous little boy and I hope I see him my next match.”
While endearing himself to the Paris crowd, Djokovic was not entirely happy with the decision not to cover the court when the rain began to fall more heavily. “In my opinion there are a few times today they maybe should have covered the court earlier,” he said. “So I think the chair umpire should have made a decision earlier to take us off the court and cover the court. I’m talking for the court’s sake, for a good condition, because it was a lot of rain.
“I know that on clay, of course, we can play with a certain level of rain, but still it’s not that great for the court’s condition.”
The match had been first interrupted by rain when Djokovic, who is looking to win the only grand slam title missing from his collection, was a break ahead at 4-1 up in the first set.
It did not hinder Djokovic, who barely blinked when he conceded a late break and hit 37 winners to set up a meeting with local favourite Jeremy Chardy.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal stormed to his 60th win at the French Open as he began his bid for a ninth French Open in convincing fashion.
The world No 1 cruised to a 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 win over US wild-card Robby Ginepri, the world 279 and former top 30 player who has not won a match on tour all year.
In the women’s draw, Maria Sharapova once again showed the remarkable turnaround in her clay-court game as she cruised into the second round of the French Open on Monday.
The 2012 champion shrugged off an hour-long rain delay to defeat fellow Russian Ksenia Pervak 6-1, 6-2 in 61 minutes.
Sharapova, who in 2007 described herself as a “cow on ice” when playing on clay, would never have imagined that seven years later it would become her most successful surface.
Five of her last six titles have come on clay, including her only grand slam title since 2008. Before she lost to Ana Ivanovic in Rome this month, she had gone unbeaten on the surface against every player apart from Serena Williams for three years.
Williams remains the major obstacle and they are likely to meet in the quarter-finals next week in a rematch of last year’s final.
“The clay was very difficult for me, because I had never had mental confidence that I was able to play a three-hour match and have the opportunity to play in the semi-finals or finals,” Sharapova said.
Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova reached round two with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Virginie Razzano.
Cibulkova reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2009, which had been the only time she had progressed that far in a grand slam event until her stellar run in Melbourne.
Australia’s Samantha Stosur reached the French Open second round on Monday, despite needing five stitches to patch up a gashed leg injury suffered in a gym workout.
However, despite having her left leg heavily strapped she still possessed too much firepower for Monica Puig as she claimed a comfortable 6-1, 6-1 over the Puerto Rican woman, who had won the Strasbourg tournament at the weekend.
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Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM