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Kei Nishikori weathers tough French Open opener with 5-set win over Canadian qualifier; Marks first appearance at Roland Garros in 3 years


Reuters
Kei Nishikori scores during his first round match at the French Open against Canadian Gabriel Diallo on Sunday

PARIS — Kei Nishikori marked his return to Roland Garros by winning an epic first-round match at the French Open, defeating qualifier Gabriel Diallo of Canada 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6 , 1-6, 7-5 in Paris on Sunday.

Nishikori showed his tenacious style has not changed even though he is now 34 and returning to the Grand Slam tournament for the first time in three years after an injury layoff.

“In the end, I really fought through it with my mind,” Nishikori said after a 4-hour, 22-minute fight against his 22-year-old opponent.

After winning the first two sets, Nishikori dropped the next two as he could not handle Diallo’s powerful shots. “To be honest, I didn’t want to go there [a fifth set]” said Nishikori.

Before the fifth set, Nishikori received a massage on his lower back. But he returned to the court and showed that he never gives up, even when he looks physically battered.

Instead of staying behind, Nishikori bravely charged inside the baseline and moved his opponent to either side to force mistakes. When he secured the victory, a look of relief appeared on his face.

In recent years, Nishikori has struggled with a left knee injury and other ailments. Sunday’s match was his first since a defeat in March, and his first on clay this season.

“I’m happy because my tennis is coming back somehow,” he said at a press conference in the early hours of Monday.

Meanwhile, Shintaro Mochizuki, who reached the main draw through qualification, lost a difficult five-setter to eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz from Poland.

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