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Grigor Dimitrov vs Kei Nishikori ATP Rome Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Dimitrov in danger of another opening round exit in Rome

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 15 May 2018
  • Grigor Dimitrov vs Kei Nishikori is live from Rome on Wednesday, 16 May from 12:30pm local time/ 11:30am BST
  • Nishikori leads 3-1 on head-to-head, first meeting on clay
Grigor Dimitrov. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

On a three-match losing streak at the Rome Masters, Grigor Dimitrov looks to avoid a third successive opening round exit at the Italian capital when he opens his 2018 campaign against Kei Nishikori on Wednesday.

Dimitrov had his best performance in Rome in 2014, when he lost to Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. The Bulgarian defeated Jerzy Janowicz in the opening round of the next edition; but he has not won a match since then, crashing to Fabio Fognini in the third round in 2015 before suffering consecutive opening round losses to Alexander Zverev and Juan Martin del Potro in 2016 and 2017 respectively. His fluctuating form in 2018, and the quality of his opening round opponent puts him at risk of a fourth straight loss at the Foro Italico.

Dimitrov is also looking to avoid consecutive opening round losses on the ATP Tour, having fallen to Milos Raonic in Madrid last week. While the Bulgarian has produced some decent results this year, the 26-year-old has not particularly been convincing, and has always looked vulnerable to the upset. The world number four, who had a career best season last year, winning a first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, and the Nitto ATP Finals in London, began the year with a semi-final in Sydney, before reaching the quarter finals of the Australian Open. He then made his first and only final of the year so far in Rotterdam, losing to Roger Federer, before suffering consecutive opening round losses in Dubai and Indian Wells. He broke that run with victory over Maximilian Marterer in the opening round in Miami, but was beaten by Jeremy Chardy in the next round, as his dodgy form continued.

Dimitrov had a decent start to the clay-court season, reaching the semi-finals in Monte Carlo, and making the quarters in Barcelona, but he slipped up again in Madrid, losing to Raonic in three sets in the opening round. He faces another tough opener in Rome, where takes on Nishikori on Wednesday.


Now ranked 24th in the world after his struggles with injuries, Nishikori doesn’t have the benefit of a first-round bye these days, and he came through a tough challenge from Feliciano Lopez to get through the opening round. Nishikori won an hour-long opening set on a topsy-turvy tie break; and appeared to have taken control with a break in the opening game of the second set. Lopez got the break back for 3-3, but Nishikori restored his advantage in the next game, before going on to close out of the 7-6 6-4 victory in an hour and 50 minutes.

"It wasn't easy match," said Nishikori. "It was windy and he used a lot of slice and great serves… Luckily I [won the] first set and after that I was more confident and I was playing better tennis".

Victory over Lopez snapped a three-match losing streak for Nishikori. The Japanese had begun his clay-court season with a fine runner-up finish at Monte Carlo, beating Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev before losing to Rafael Nadal in the final, but his injury problems surfaced again in his next event in Barcelona, where he retired from his opening round meeting with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. He had a rough deal with the draw in Madrid, paired alongside Novak Djokovic in the first round. He lost to the Serbian former world number one for the eleventh straight time.

After cutting his 2017 season short due to a wrist injury (he didn’t play again after Montreal), he eased his way back to the tour on the Challenger Tour in January, losing his comeback match at Newport Beach before winning the Dallas Challenger. He returned to the ATP Tour in New York, making the semi-finals, but he stuttered through the rest of the hard court season, losing early in Acapulco and Miami, either side of his withdrawal from Indian Wells through illness. He has been much better on clay, particularly with that final in Monte Carlo, and after the unfortunate retirement in Barcelona and his tough luck in Madrid, the former Rome semi-finalist has returned to winning ways in Rio, and now seeks the top-ten scalp of Dimitrov on Wednesday.

Nishikori has won three of his four previous matches against Dimitrov, but the Bulgarian did win their most recent encounter in Brisbane last year. Nishikori’s ease at changing direction off both wings has been key to his dominance of this match-up, as he can get at Dimitrov’s backhand either with his own backhand or his forehand down the line. When fit, he’s also got the athleticism to stay with Dimitrov, which is one of the best in that department on the tour. Nishikori’s fitness is always a factor in a physical match-up like this, but if the his body can hold up, I think he has got the game to take out Dimitrov on Wednesday.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Kei Nishikori is live from Rome on Wednesday, 16 May from 12:30pm local time/ 11:30am BST


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Grigor Dimitrov vs Kei Nishikori ATP Rome Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Dimitrov in danger of another opening round exit in Rome

Grigor Dimitrov begins his Rome campaign against Kei Nishikori on Wednesday. Can Dimitrov avoid a third straight opening round exit in Rome? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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