NEW YORK – Kei Nishikori battled for the second match in succession before claiming his place in the third round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.
The sixth-seeded Nishikori, the runnerup in New York in 2014, dropped his second set but came through 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 against 20-year-old Russian qualifier Karen Khachanov.
A rain delay of around three hours, which came at 4-4 in the third set, helped Nishikori regroup and he eased away to victory on the resumption.
“Especially in the third set he was playing really well, serving well,” said Nishikori, who next plays Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.
“I had some chances before the rain delay, but it wasn’t easy. After the delay I was playing good tennis. I am happy to win today.”
Two-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka rallied from 5-2 down in the second set to clinch victory over Italian Alessandro Giannessi.
After dominating the opening set, the third-seeded Swiss battled back to force a tiebreak and then broke the Italian in the final game of the match to finish a 6-1, 7-6 (4-7), 7-5 victory.
“I was trying to be a little more aggressive,” said Wawrinka, who blasted 57 winners, including 26 off his forehand, in the Louis Armstrong Stadium contest. “I’m very happy the way I won the match.”
Wawrinka will next face 64th-ranked Daniel Evans of Britain, a 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 winner against Germany’s 27th seed Alexander Zverev.
Wawrinka, who has emerged from the shadow of compatriot Roger Federer after winning the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 French Open, was asked if he thought he was a threat to win the title at Flushing Meadows.
“I’m No. 3 in the world with a great career so far,” the 31-year-old Wawrinka said. “I’m happy with what I’m doing so far in my career. I’m happy the way I’m playing so far in this tournament. Let’s see what can happen.”
Wawrinka said he was pleased with the competitive level of the match, especially given they had to deal with a rain delay after starting and liked the pace on the Louis Armstrong Court.
Wild card Juan Martin del Potro showed himself a force to be reckoned with at Flushing Meadows as the Argentine swept aside American Steve Johnson in three sets to reach the third round.
Del Potro, who won the 2009 U.S. Open in a thrilling five-setter over Roger Federer, has come through a long battle with a left wrist injury that has dropped him to 142 in the rankings.
The power hitter now appears back to full strength coming off a rousing silver medal performance at the Rio Olympics.
In Rio, del Potro beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the first round, 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals and battled Andy Murray to four tough sets in the final.
Del Potro, playing the final match of the day at Arthur Ashe Stadium, was competing on center court here for the first time since 2013.
“It’s amazing, the stadium. It’s amazing the atmosphere out there,” del Potro said on court after his emphatic 7-6 (8-5) 6-3 6-2 victory.
“I’m so happy to be playing tennis again after my third surgery on the wrist and I think I did a really good job to come back at tennis.”
The big Argentine belted 15 aces past 19th seed Johnson and yielded only one break of serve in the 2-hour, 9-minute match.
Andy Murray, who followed up his Wimbledon triumph with a second straight Olympic gold in Rio, rolled to a 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 victory over tenacious Spaniard Marcel Granollers.
After 17 trips here and six U.S. Open titles, Serena Williams did something on Thursday she had never done before win a match indoors.
With the new high-tech retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium slammed shut because of persistent rain, Williams swept past American compatriot Vania King 6-3 6-3 in a tidy 65 minutes to ease into the third round.
“It was a little different playing with Ashe closed but it still feels great,” said Williams. “It’s very, very loud out there. “It’s definitely different because everywhere you play is really quiet. Here it’s super loud.”
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