Ten­nis: Flat Nishikori hits wall at Aussie Open

The Pak Banker - - INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS/SPORTS -

Kei Nishikori hit the wall at the Aus­tralian Open on Wed­nes­day, de­flat­ing his de­voted Ja­panese sup­port­ers as he was roughed up by Stan Wawrinka in the quar­ter-fi­nals. The Swiss de­fend­ing cham­pion had too many big guns for the fifth seed, rat­tling off a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (8/6) win in just over two hours on Rod Laver Arena.

It means Wawrinka stays in the tour­na­ment with a semi­fi­nal against ei­ther No­vak Djokovic or Mi­los Raonic beck­on­ing, while Nishikori ex­its after fall­ing at his first big hur­dle at Mel­bourne Park. Much had been ex­pected from the Florida-based 25-year-old after he beat Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic to reach the US Open fi­nal last Septem­ber.

But apart from Wawrinka's ner­vous flut­ter­ing away of five match points in the third set tiebreaker, it was all one-way traf­fic. "I felt a lit­tle bit tired, heavy. But men­tally I was fine and I was ready to go. But he was a lit­tle bet­ter to­day," Nishikori con­ceded. "I may have felt a lit­tle bit of pres­sure. But he was serv­ing re­ally well to­day be­cause I usu­ally re­turn well and break in a cou­ple games. "So it was tough to find my game to­day and he was play­ing re­ally

ag­gres­sive, great fore­hand, back­hand." It was a far cry from the last time the pair met in the quar­ter-fi­nals at the US Open when he won in five sets. This time he coughed up three ser­vice breaks, made more er­rors than win­ners, 31-23, and lost the majority of the longer ral­lies, usu­ally his bread and but­ter. "I didn't start well. First cou­ple of games I was miss­ing so much, so many un­forced er­rors. I was go­ing for too much," he said.

"I don't know. I may have felt a lit­tle bit pres­sure." Now that he is the hunted at world num­ber five rather than the hunter, Nishikori said he is feel­ing more heat. "Every­body is go­ing to be tough from now be­cause every­body is com­ing over 100 per­cent," he said.

"Even first cou­ple matches I had here was re­ally tough. Ob­vi­ously they're go­ing to put in 100 per­cent from the be­gin­ning." De­spite the de­feat, Nishikori was over­all happy with his 10 days' work at the year's first Grand Slam tour­na­ment. "It wasn't re­ally a bad week. It's not easy come quar­ter-fi­nal time at the Grand Slams," he said. "I have to keep do­ing this. I could be bet­ter. But I need more of th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences, play­ing tough all the time, play­ing a lot of matches. Es­pe­cially in Grand Slam, there is more pres­sure."

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