PARIS, June 3, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
Continuing from where he had left off on Sunday, the seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori survived a determined surge from Benoit Paire to move into the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. The Japanese overcame the wasting of two match points in the fourth set to beat the Frenchman 6-2, 6-7(8), 2-6, 6-7(8), 7-5 in three hours and 55 minutes.
Earlier on Sunday, after low light stopped play after a delayed start to the match, Nishikori led by two-sets-to-one. When play resumed on Monday, both players’ aggressiveness led to the enforcement of the tie-break in the fourth set. In the tiebreak, Nishikori took his chances as he secured mini-breaks not once but twice, and even gained match points for an early finish. However, Paire snatched back these chances before levelling the set after bringing up a set point of his own.
In the fifth set, it was Paire who broke early and went on to lead Nishikori 4-1. The set, however, changed course again as Nishikori broke back to 4-3 on serve. But while serving to level the score at 4-all, Paire broke again and went on to serve for the match. His inability to do so cost him as Nishikori broke back for the second time before breaking the Lyon champion’s serve for the third time in the set at 6-5. Serving for the match, Nishikori made no mistakes as he secured a place in the last eight for the third time in his career (after 2015 and 2017).
Paire who reached the second week of the French Open for the first time in his career spoke about his emotions after losing the match, from a winning position. “Right now, if you ask me the question, of course one hour after the match, it’s the disappointment. I reached the second week. It was my objective. But when you’re in the second week your objective is to get to the quarters, semis. I didn’t want to stop there,” Paire said.
“For me, this match I should have lost it in three or four sets but I should have won it in the fifth set. If I’m in the fifth set I should have won it. But in three or four he had the occasions to win. That’s why I’m disappointed. But I’m very happy about my week. I won Lyon last week, and it’s not difficult to have these two tournaments one after the other. I played a lot of matches, but I feel pretty well physically. I don’t have many injuries. So, for me, it will remain a good Roland Garros. But, of course, right now it’s a lot of disappointment.”
Nishikori will play defending champion, Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
Novak Djokovic makes it a perfect 10
Serbian Novak Djokovic moved into the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in the fourth round in an hour and 33 minutes. This was the World No. 1’s 10 straight appearance in the quarters in Paris, since losing in the fourth round of the 2009 French Open to Struff’s compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber. He is the first player to accomplish the feat.
Djokovic hit 31 winners to Struff’s 20 and had just the 12 unforced errors to the World No. 45’s 19. The 2016 Roland Garros champion finished the match with 85 points to Struff’s 54. Djokovic awaits the winner between the ninth-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini and the fifth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the last eight.
In his post-match press conference, Djokovic said, “Well, I am satisfied so far with my game. I mean, I reached the quarterfinals and played as closest to my best tennis on clay as I think I can be at the moment. I’m really pleased with every aspect of my game. So, everything is coming together beautifully. I’m motivated to fight for the trophy, yes. I mean, that’s why I’m here. But it’s still a long way to go.”