The second round got underway on Wednesday in Brisbane with two of the top seeds in action. It saw the last Australian standing in a dog fight. A spot in the quarterfinals was on the line. Let’s take a look back at day three of the Brisbane International.
Despite being broken in his first service game of the year, second seed Kei Nishikori recovered to get his season started with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Mikhail Kukushkin. The Kazak raced out to a 2-0 lead, only for Nishikori to bounce back and take control of the match. After having his first service game broken, Nishikori would not be broken again for the remainder of the match, saving the other five break points he faced, responding with three breaks of his own. Nishikori also won fifty-four percent of Kukushkin’s second serve points. The Japanese is now one win away from reaching his fourth straight semifinal in Brisbane.
After the match, Nishikori was quick to praise his opponent, saying, “I thought it was great match. I think he really started well. He was playing aggressively, [hit] great backhands, and I tried it mix up. I think I went to his backhand too much. He has very steady backhand. I tried to move the ball around and started playing better. I think I served really well today. That's also improving, so very happy for that."
Nishikori’s conqueror in the 2009 US Open final, Marin Cilic, got his season underway with a tight win over Korean teen Hyeon Chung. Cilic fired eighteen aces past Chung and won eighty-four percent of his first serve points. However, his second serve was not up to par, as he only won forty-eight percent of those points. The Croat grabbed the key break late in the opening set to win it 7-5. The second set went down to the wire, requiring a tiebreak. In the break, Cilic’s veteran experience won out and he clinched the 7-5, 7-6(3) victory in one hour and forty-six minutes.
Dominic Thiem bounced back from a difficult opening round match to cruise past Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-2 in his second round match. He broke early for 4-2 leads in both sets and never looked back. Thiem was dominant on serve, hitting seven aces and winning eighty-four percent of first serve points. More importantly, he never gave Kudla a chance to get back in the match, never giving Kudla a break point opportunity. The 22-year-old Austrian converted three break points of his own and won sixty-one percent of Kudla’s second serve points in the win.
After a disappointing first round for the home fans, Bernard Tomic was the last Australian standing and found himself in a tough battle with Radek Stepanek. There was little between the two men throughout the match, which started out with an epic tiebreak, won by Tomic 8-6. Tomic was unable to roll the momentum over to the second set, as Stepanek would get the decisive break and held on to force a deciding set. Both men were serving well, hitting double digits in the ace department (nineteen for Tomic, fourteen for Stepanek). Fittingly, a tiebreak was needed to decide the match. In the end, Tomic’s younger legs won out, and after two hours and thirty-seven minutes, the Australian took the tiebreak and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-6(4). Stepanek actually won five more points than Tomic in the loss.
The second round will conclude on Thursday with last year’s finalists kicking off their 2016 seasons.