Auger-Aliassime crashes out in Madrid, Nishikori gets past Khachanov

The Canadian has plenty of thinking to do with some troubling stats for his team to consider – but it was a brilliant day for the ever-resilient Nishikori

Felix Auger-Aliassime in Monte-Carlo, 2021

Felix Auger-Aliassime crashed out of the Mutua Madrid Open at the first hurdle, losing to Casper Ruud in straight sets.

But it was better news for Kei Nishikori, entering the tournament ranked outside the Top 40 for the first time in a decade.

Once ranked in the Top 4, the Japanese star beat world No 23 Karen Khachanov 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-2.

I’m flying, says Ruud

In the day’s first upset, the Norwegian beat the 15th seed 6-1, 6-4 in just over an hour and a half for his first main draw win at the tournament.

The scoreline may be less troubling for Auger-Aliassime’s team – which now includes Toni Nadal – than some of the other statistics he racked up. He won only 18 per cent of points on his second serve, and did not have a single break point opportunity in the entire match.

Ruud has enjoyed some spectacular recent form, though, and is currently riding high at a peak career ranking of world No 22. He has reached the quarter-finals of the last four ATP Tour events in which he has competed – Acapulco, Andalucia, Munich and Monte-Carlo.

“I’ll take all the Masters 1000 wins I can get!” the 22-year-old joked to Amazon Prime afterwards.

“I played very solid, steady. The conditions here are a bit different to many other clay courts with the high bounce and altitude, it flies a bit more, it’s even a bit faster than usual. It’s tough to sometimes stay in the rallies for too long because it can fly away a little bit. I think sometimes for Felix today he made some frames when I stayed solid, it flew a little bit, and that’s what I thought about the most part, to just stay solid and play him a good length. That was the key of my win today.”

Pressure

Nishikori has suffered with fitness in recent months and this was a solid win over a strong opponent – although Khachanov did need a medical time-out for what seemed to be a cut to his finger.

It was the 31-year-old’s composure under pressure that made the real difference, converting six of his seven break point chances despite the Russian’s strength on serve – with six aces and 72 per cent of his points won on the first serve.

And he will have a tough test in the next round too – as he faces fifth seed Alexander Zverev.

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