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Kei Nishikori vs Gilles Simon French Open Previews, Predictions and Live Stream: Nishikori faces another local favourite Simon in third round

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 31 May 2018
  • Kei Nishikori vs Gilles Simon is live from Roland Garros on Friday, 1 June from 12:30pm local time/ 11:30am BST
  • Nishikori looking to reach fourth round for the fourth time in five years
Kei Nishikori. (Photo by ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

After surviving a tough five-setter against the mercurial Frenchman, Benoit Paire in the second round, Kei Nishikori runs into another home favourite in the form of Gilles Simon in an intriguing third round contest at Roland Garros.

Up against an inspired opponent who was pushed by a vociferous home crowd, Nishikori found himself in a two-sets-to-one hole against the mercurial Benoit Paire, but the Japanese superstar kept his poise to escape with a 6-3 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-3 victory. 49 winners flew off Paire’s racket, as against 28 from Nishikori, who is by no means a slouch in the winner-hitting department, but his ability to keep a lid on the unforced errors proved decisive, as he coughed up ‘just’ 37, compared to 63 from Paire. A first serve percentage of 45 also did not help Paire’s cause. He finished the match with 13 double faults.

Nishikori broke twice to take the opening set, but Paire hit back to take the next two, moving tantalizingly close to a very popular victory. However, his Japanese opponent raised his game again to dominate the fourth, before emerging at the positive end of a three-break swing at the backend of the final set, earning the right to serve the match. It was a complicated closure, keeping in line with the rest of the match, with Paire threatening for one last time with four break back points, but Nishikori fended off those advances to seal victory after just over three hours. 

“It wasn’t an easy match,” Nishikori said. “He’s a different type of player with many different shots. There were a lot of ups and downs. I didn’t play 100 per cent, but on the important points I was able to do what I had to do.”

Nishikori now looks to be over the wrist injury that forced him to quit 2017 early. He eased his way back into the sport on the Challenger Tour in January, losing at Newport Beach in his first tournament back, before winning the Dallas Challenger the following week. He returned to the ATP World Tour in New York, where he reached the semi-finals, but he could not quite build on that as he fell early in Acapulco and Miami. He skipped Indian Wells because of illness. Nishikori had been very good on clay before Roland Garros- he made the final in Monte Carlo, beating top ten players, Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev, before falling to Rafael Nadal. He suffered another injury scare in Barcelona, where he retired from his opening match against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, while he had the misfortune of drawing an improving Novak Djokovic in the first round in Madrid. He was back to winning ways in Rome, where he defeated another top-ten player, Grigor Dimitrov, as well as Feliciano Lopez and Philipp Kohlschreiber, before falling to Djokovic in an epic three-set quarter final.

The 28-year-old is looking to reach the fourth round of the French Open for the fourth time in five years, and the man out to deny him is France’s Gilles Simon. 

Simon does not have the flashiest record at Roland Garros, but he has consistently got to the third and fourth rounds over the last few years- and after missing out last year, losing in the first round to Nikoloz Basilashvili, the former world number six is back in the third round for the seventh time in eight years.

Gilles Simon. (Photo by ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
He took his revenge over Basilashvili in the opening round this year, defeating the Georgian in four sets, before scoring another four-set win over Sam Querrey in the second round. The Frenchman was outplayed in a 27-minute opening set, spared just the one game by his American opponent, but he fought back to claim a very impressive 1-6 7-6 6-4 6-1 victory.

His French Open performances so far had been the continuation of the form he showed in the week leading up to Paris in Lyon, where he reached the final before falling to Dominic Thiem. That was Simon’s second final of the season, as he had won in Pune in the opening week of the season. He failed to build on such a perfect start; and did not win consecutive matches through the rest of the hard-court season. He retired hurt from his second-round meeting with Pablo Carreno Busta, and notably failed to cross the first round at Masters 1000 tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami. The switch to clay brought about an immediate change in fortunes as he won consecutive matches in a quarter final run in Marrakech, but he lost out in the second round in Monte Carlo and Barcelona before falling in the opening round in Estoril. He salvaged his clay court season in Lyon, where he was runner up to Thiem. Apparently buoyed by that result, he has put together two solid wins in Paris, and now seeks the scalp of former world number four, Nishikori. 

Simon is down at No. 65 in the rankings, majorly due to a disappointing 2017, but he is still a very capable player, and will certainly make Friday’s contest with Nishikori very competitive. And who is to say he cannot win?

Nishikori, it is for me though. While Simon does come up with some superb stroke-making, he doesn’t quite have the skill set and firepower of Benoit Paire, who gave Nishikori so much problems in the previous round. Like Paire, the backhand remains the money shot, but Nishikori has got a backhand to counter, and a better forehand, and better movement. Nishikori is better in many aspects, plus, he has been in very good form on clay- expect him to return to the fourth round on Friday.

Kei Nishikori vs Gilles Simon is live from Roland Garros on Friday, 1 June from 12:30pm local time/ 11:30am BST

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Kei Nishikori vs Gilles Simon French Open Previews, Predictions and Live Stream: Nishikori faces another local favourite Simon in third round

Kei Nishikori faces Gilles Simon in the third round of the French Open. Can Nishikori take down a third straight Frenchman in Paris? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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