Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Kei Nishikori have set up a fourth-round clash at the Australian Open, winning through on a rain-soaked day five at Melbourne Park.
Tsonga outdid compatriot Pierre-Hugues Herbert in three tight sets, while Nishikori overcame a wrist injury and Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in four.
The world No.10 had too much for his lowly-ranked compatriot, winning 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-4) in 132 minutes.
The battle of two Frenchmen was one of contrasting styles; Tsonga brought his dynamic baseline game and Herbert countered from the net.
Ranked 167 in the world, Herbert was one of just two qualifiers to reach the third round but quickly showed he wasn’t out of place.
At his best, Herbert disarmed the 2008 Australian Open finalist with crowd-pleasing poise, but too often his volleys found the net or the wrong side of the baseline.
Tsonga had too many tricks for the 24-year-old, and proved it to save a set point in the second.
The ninth seed raced back to chase Herbert’s lob, spinning and placing a cross-court backhand past his compatriot at the net, wheeling away to celebrating wildly.
Nishikori’s 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-4 win in two hours and 48 minutes was not without drama.
After edging a tight first set, Nishikori needed a medical time-out to treat his wrist.
Sporting a bandage underneath his bright orange wristband when he returned for the second set, his level dropped.
The 26th-seeded Spaniard was able to overpower Nishikori to claim the set, letting out a big ‘si’ as he levelled the match.
Nishikori was rattled by Garcia-Lopez’s power game, giving a thumbs up to his opponent as he unleashed a huge backhand winner early in the third set.
But he wasn’t to be outdone.
Upping his consistency, Nishikori re-applied himself to the contest to claim the final two sets.
He said his wrist responded to treatment, and he didn’t feel the ailment after the first set.
“It was tough mentally,” Nishikori said.
“He was serving really well and I couldn’t return well.
“I started to concentrate again … lucky I didn’t go five sets, for my body it’s great.”
David Goffin also won through to the last 16 on Friday.
Goffin claimed a 6-1 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 win over precociously talented world No.20 Dominic Thiem in two hours and 58 minutes.
Thiem’s mental fade-outs cost him but he was applauded for a second set act of sportsmanship.
The Austrian conceded a point he was entitled to replay after Goffin correctly challenged a call.
Goffin said he was delighted to triumph.
“I’m really happy with the way I managed the match emotionally because it’s always hard to play against a friend,” he said.
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