Resolute Raonic and Nishikori earn hard fought wins

Published by AAP

Milos Raonic celebrates during his four hour battle on Rod Laver Arena.
Raonic’s third-round opponent will be Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who equalled his best Grand Slam showing by upsetting 2018 semi-finalist Hyeon Chung.

Canadian Milos Raonic has held his nerve to win three successive tie-breaks and send former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka packing in the second round at Melbourne Park.

In a match lasting just over four hours that began under open skies and finished with the roof closed on Rod Laver Arena following a rain delay, Raonic triumphed 6-7(4) 7-6(6) 7-6(11) 7-6(5).

Switzerland’s Wawrinka, who won the Open title back in 2014, was up a break late in the fourth set but it was the big-serving Raonic who finished the stronger.

“That is hard to describe – it feels like four hours passed by in 15 minutes,” said Raonic.

“In the heat of the battle, the adrenaline takes over. You try to do everything you can each and every point. I was very fortunate to stay alive in that fourth set.

“I am thankful that it was indoors. I do a little bit better indoors than I do outdoors … thank you for raining.”

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Raonic’s third-round opponent will be Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who equalled his best grand slam result by upsetting last year’s surprise semi-finalist Hyeon Chung.

Herbert triumphed 6-2 1-6 6-2 6-4 against the No.24 seed from South Korea.

No.8 seed Kei Nishikori continued his unbeaten start to 2019, edging towering Croatian Ivo Karlovic on Thursday in a super-tie-break.

Karlovic served 59 aces in the match – but crucially just one in the deciding tiebreaker – as Nishikori prevailed 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 5-7 5-7 7-6 (10-7).

Nishikori broke Karlovic’s serve just once in the marathon encounter lasting three hours and 48 minutes, but that proved too be enough.

“It was a really tough match and it could have gone both ways,” said Nishikori, who has reached the last eight at Melbourne Park on three previous occasions.

“I was down 7-6 in the tie-break but I focused well in the last points and I’m really happy to win.”

The Japanese star did well to keep his cool when Karlovic made a successful challenge at a crucial moment in the super tie-break after his return was wrongly called out despite clipping the baseline.

The chair umpire then awarded the point to the Croatian after determining the linesperson’s erroneous call did not affect Nishikori’s subsequent shot which he dumped into the net, levelling the score at 6-6.

Nishikori will play Portugal’s Joao Sousa in the third round on Saturday, who also prevailed in five sets past 32nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Italian No.12 seed Fabio Fognini benefited by saving his best for the tie-breaks, downing Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (3) 6-3 7-6 (5) to set up a third-round battle with Pablo Carreno Busta from Spain.

Meanwhile Croatian 11th seed Borna Coric enjoyed a 6-4 6-3 6-4 triumph over Marton Fucsovics out on Court 3.

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