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Top seed, Kei Nishikori battles through tough Rotterdam opener

Japan’s Kei Nishikori rallied from a set down to beat Frenchman Pierre Herbert 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 and reach the second round of the Rotterdam Open on Tuesday.

The top seed for the event in Holland, Nishikori was playing in his first match since retiring in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open against Novak Djokovic, and, in the opening set, struggled to keep up with Herbert, who reached the final of the Montpellier Open barely 48 hours earlier.

The Japanese, however, got back on song in the second set, carving out the decisive break in the 4th game to open up a 3-1 lead and never looked back as he went on to level the match and force a third set, which he also sealed to claim victory in 2 hours and 10 minutes.

“It wasn’t easy, as he was playing good tennis and serving well,” Nishikori said. “I had a little bit of trouble with my return game and couldn’t convert the important points.

“I just tried to play steady, as I wasn’t playing bad. I tried to stay aggressive.”

The 29-year-old, who clinched the Brisbane International title in January, will next face Ernests Gulbis, who beat Marius Copil 6-2, 6-4 in a battle of qualifying lucky losers.

Meanwhile, 2nd seed, Karen Khachanov suffered a second straight shock first round exit with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Dutch wildcard Tallon Griekspoor.

Since his Paris Masters title triumph in November last year, Russia’s Khachanov has struggled to find his footing, winning just two matches on Tour since then- both wins coming at the Australian Open.

Elsewhere, Canada’s Milos Raonic edged Phillip Kohlschreiber of Germany 7-6, 7-5 to move into the second round, where he will face three-time Grand Slam champion, Stan Wawrinka, whom he defeated in an Australian Open marathon last month.

“It will be a tough match, especially after we went four tiebreakers over four hours in Melbourne,” Raonic said. “It will be important for me to be disciplined and continue to play well. “I might need to change a few things from the last match. Hopefully, I can execute well.”

It was a good day for the Canadians as Denis Shapovalov also progressed to the second round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Franko Skugor. Frenchman Gael Monfils defeated David Goffin 7-6, 7-5.

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