Nishikori Survives Again; Next: Nadal
The seventh-seeded Japanese won his eighth consecutive five-setter on Monday, denying home favourite Benoit Paire a place in the quarter-finals 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-2, 6-7(8), 7-5 to match his best showing in Paris.
“I'm just happy to win today,” Nishikori said.
In a match that was suspended because of darkness on Sunday night, the two resumed play at the start of the fourth, and the back-and-forth tussle continued under an overcast sky.
Nishikori had two match points in the fourth-set tie-break, but Paire saved them both in a nervy tie-break from both sides. In the fifth, however, Nishikori showed his deciding-set prowess once more, breaking Paire at 3-5 and again at 5-5 to make his third Roland Garros quarter-final.
“He almost had the match... I'm just happy the way I came back from 5-3, I think... I started playing much better from 5-3, playing more aggressive, using my forehand," Nishikori said. “[It was] not easy after losing the fourth set 7-6. I had match point, and I could win in four sets, but somehow I lost the set.”
Nishikori has now won nearly 75 per cent of his deciding sets (132-45), which includes a 23-6 mark in five-setters and a 6-1 record at Roland Garros.
“It's never easy to finish a match. Normally I'm supposed to lose in three or four sets. I was a little bit tight in the tie-break. It was the same for him. He made two or three double faults in the tie-break in the fourth,” Paire said.
“For me it was a little bit the same at 5-3. I made a good return game at 4-3, made a lot of winners. I don't know what happened. For sure, it is not easy for me, is first time I am in the last 16 in Roland Garros. I can make a quarter-final. I can beat Nishikori, who is a very good player.”
The Japanese will next face 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, who dismissed Argentina's Juan Ignacio Londero in straight sets on Sunday. Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 10-2, including all three matchups on clay.