Japan’s Kei Nishikori advanced to the second round of the French Open for the fourth straight year on Sunday, after beating France’s Maxime Janvier in straight sets.
The 19th-seeded Nishikori defeated the French wild card 7-6(0), 6-4, 6-3. Japan’s world No. 21 struggled with the serves and shots of his 304th-ranked opponent, but claimed the first set after scoring seven consecutive points in the tie-break.
Nishikori found his rhythm in the second set, when he broke the first game with three return aces. He saved 10 break point opportunities throughout the 2 hour, 19 minute match.
“My opponent was really good. The quality of his performance was beyond his world rankings,” Nishikori said. “Winning the match in three sets means a lot to me. I didn’t allow a single break point and I concentrated well during important moments of the match.”
The 28-year-old Japanese was playing in his first Grand Slam event since last July’s Wimbledon. He missed two tournaments after being sidelined with a season-ending injury sustained in August.
“My biggest motivation is just being here,” Nishikori said. “I was nervous at first. But I told myself I need to enjoy playing here during the third set, and it made me feel better.”
The former world No. 4 came back to competition in late January and is making his way up the ladder again, winning three of his four matches against players ranked fifth or higher.
“When I returned to competition, I wasn’t confident in my performance even when I played against players ranked 100 or so. But I have a stronger desire to win compared to before.”
Among other Japanese, Yoshihito Nishioka made a first-round exit after losing 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5 to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in a marathon match lasting 4 hours, 23 minutes.
(Maxime Janvier serves during his match against Kei Nishikori)