Nishikori Denies Dimitrov Birthday Win In Rome Thriller | ATP World Tour

Kei Nishikori denied Grigor Dimitrov a 27th birthday win to reach the Internazionali BNL d’Italia third round on Wednesday, defeating the World No. 4 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4.

Nishikori, who entered Rome on a three-match losing streak, came from a set and a break down to defeat Dimitrov for the fourth time in five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. Dimitrov has now lost four consecutive matches in Rome, dating back to his first-round win over Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz in 2015.

The Japanese star, a Rome semi-finalist in 2016 (l. to Djokovic) will meet Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in the quarter-finals. The German defeated Jack Sock in straight sets on Tuesday.

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Nishikori secured the opening break of the match in the fifth game, converting his fifth break point opportunity after letting a 40/0 advantage on the Bulgarian’s serve slip. The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters runner-up served for the set at 5-4, but Dimitrov reeled off eight consecutive points to lead 6-5 after breaking with a forehand winner. Dimitrov, the Nitto ATP Finals champion, once again, trailed in the tie-break, but came back to clinch the first set as Nishikori netted off his backhand side.

The 27-year-old was the first to break in set two, establishing a 4-3 lead as Nishikori fired long on his backhand, but the Bulgarian could not consolidate his advantage. Nishikori replied immediately, saving game point, before unleashing a pinpoint backhand down the line on his second break point of the set. The match appeared to be heading to a second tie-break, but Nishikori made a late charge, breaking serve on his third set point at 6-5 as Dimitrov misfired on his forehand.

Dimitrov, once again, took the opening break in the decider and moved into a 4-2 lead before Nishikori made the decisive move. Nishikori won four consecutive games, extracting a forehand error from Dimitrov to reach 4-4 before booking his place in the third round as Dimitrov netted an attempted backhand down the line on match point.

Nishikori improves to 11-6 on the ATP World Tour this season, while Dimitrov, who also lost his opening-round match at the Mutua Madrid Open to Milos Raonic, drops to 16-10 in 2018.

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