Washington, Aug 5: Reigning US Open champion Marin Cilic and runner-up Kei Nishikori advanced to the third round of the ATP and WTA Washington Open in hard-fought matches that finished early Wednesday morning.
Japan's fifth-ranked Nishikori rallied to beat Australian James Duckworth 6-7 (8/10), 6-1, 6-4 while Croatia's eighth-ranked Cilic defeated 77th-ranked South Korean teen Chung Hyeon 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 in their first hardcourt appearances on the road to this year's US Open.
Cilic, the first reigning US Open champion to play in the US capital since Andre Agassi in 2000, and second seed Nishikori each had first round byes and saw their matches pushed into the wee hours by a rain delay.
Next in Nishikori's path will be the winner of a Wednesday match between Argentina's Leonardo Mayer and Slovenia's Blaz Rola.
The 25-year-old Asian number one, playing his first match since pulling out ofWimbledon in the second round with a calf injury, fought back after dropping a tense tie-breaker to seize command of the match.
In his first match since a Wimbledon quarter-final loss to eventual champion Novak Djokovic, Cilic surrendered a break in the seventh game but broke back in the eighth.
In the tie-breaker, Cilic jumped ahead 6-1, double faulted, then blasted a service winner to win the set after 53 minutes, taking all 18 of his first serve points in the set. Third seed Cilic opened the second set with a break and broke again for a 4-1 edge before Chung broke back and held to restore some pressure.
Chung had two break-point chances on Cilic in the eighth game but the veteran saved them on a net cord winner and his ninth ace and held, then broke to claim the victory.
Cilic booked a third-round meeting with American Sam Querrey, who fired 26 aces to oust Japan's Go Soeda 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
Nishikori battles back
Nishikori, tested by a 23-year-old rival ranked 90 spots below him in his pre-Open hardcourt opener, seeks his third title of the year after Memphis and Barcelona and his 10th career crown.
"It was my first match on hardcourt," said Nishikori. "It had been a long time since I played on hardcourt. This should be OK for the next match."
Duckworth grabbed a 6-4 tie-breaker lead after Nishikori sent a backhand wide. Nishikori saved two set points before the Aussie followed with his eighth ace, but he then hit a backhand long to fall level at 7-7.
Nishikori's third ace brought his first set point but Duckworth rescued that with a service winner wide, then hit another and finally took the set on his fourth chance when Nishikori sent a backhand volley beyond the baseline. AFP