Kei Nishikori is through to the second week of the Miami Open after overcoming Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (2), 6-7 (5), 6-1 in an epic battle that lasted close to three hours.
Verdasco forced a first-set tie-break after rallying from a 3-0 deficit, but Nishikori held his ground, firing a lunging half-volley backhand winner from the baseline to take the opener.
Nishikori was cruising early in the second set and found himself serving for the match at 5-4. However, Verdasco would save a match point and break back before winning the second stanza in a tie-break.
Nishikori kept his composure though and upped his level of play in the third, storming to the finish line by only losing one game.
"It was definitely a long match," said Nishikori.
"It wasn't easy in the third set, but I have a day off tomorrow, so I should be okay.
"I knew it's going to be a tough one.
"Fernando is a very solid player. He has a great serve and great groundstrokes. I knew it was going to be long rallies.
"But it was a shame when I was up a break in both first and second sets and both went to 7-6. That was something I made some mistakes when I was up a break.
“But in the third set I was very focused. Even though the first and second were tough, I was trying to play with more energy and I think everything was working well in the third.
“It was a tough one, but I'm very happy to win today."
— Miami Open (@MiamiOpen) March 26, 2017
A feature of Nishikori’s play on the day was his aggression, he hit a total of 37 winners.
However, as impressive as that number is, his unforced error count was worryingly high at 48.
He meets with Federico Delbonis next and will have to cut that number down considerably if he is to get past the Argentine.
Meanwhile, fifth seed Rafael Nadal overcame a terrible start to progress at the expense of Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Nadal, a four-time runner up in Key Biscayne, failed to win a game in the opening set, but managed to pump himself up and turn things around to take the next two sets to claim a 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
No. 3 seed Milos Raonic pulled out with injury after aggravating a right hamstring that had hampered him for nearly a month. Raonic’s withdrawal means American qualifier Jared Donaldson goes into the fourth round.
All the other results from Sunday at the Miami Open can be seen below:
Fabio Fognini (Italy) beat Jeremy Chardy (France) 3-6 6-4 6-4
Donald Young (U.S.) beat Benoit Paire (France) 7-6(2) 6-4
Nicolas Mahut (France) beat Guido Pella (Argentina) 6-4 6-3
Federico Delbonis (Argentina) beat Jan-Lennard Struff (Germany) 7-6(5) 6-1
Jared Donaldson (U.S.) beat Milos Raonic (Canada) walkover