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Nishikori vs Fritz ATP Rome live streaming, preview and tips - Nishikori seeks third straight win over Fritz in Rome opener

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 16 May 2019
  • Kei Nishikori vs Taylor Fritz is live from Rome around 11.30am local time on Thursday (10.30am BST)
  • Nishikori has won both of their previous encounters in straight sets
Kei Nishikori (PA Images)

Kei Nishikori begins his Rome Masters campaign on Thursday as he targets a third straight win over rising American youngster Taylor Fritz in the second round.

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Kei Nishikori’s second-round match against Taylor Fritz was postponed from Wednesday to Thursday due to heavy rain. The winner will face Marin Cilic or Jan-Lennard Struff in the third round later on Thursday on Court 2.

Sixth seed Kei Nishikori has beaten Taylor Fritz in straight sets twice before, including earlier this clay season in Barcelona - can he make it a hat-trick of triumphs over the 21-year-old when the pair square off in the second round of the Rome Masters on Thursday?

Rome hasn’t necessarily been the most successful Masters 1000 tournament for Nishikori over the years, but the Japanese has played some superb tennis in the Italian city despite never reaching the final and only making the semi-finals once. Indeed, it’s taken Novak Djokovic to eliminate him in three of his last four appearances, including that semi-final run in 2016 and a pair of quarter-final finishes in 2015 and 2018, while it was Juan Martin del Potro who knocked him out in 2017. It proves it usually takes the very best to get the better of Nishikori in Rome, and after a relatively quiet last couple of months, he will be determined to generate some positive momentum heading into the upcoming French Open.

Nishikori kicked off 2019 with a bang, winning his first ATP World Tour title in almost three years by beating Daniil Medvedev to capture the Brisbane International silverware, while he backed that run up by making the Australian Open quarter-finals, where he was forced to retire against Novak Djokovic due to fatigue after three five-setters in the earlier rounds. Nishikori returned to make the semi-finals of Rotterdam, but his level dropped after that as he lost four of his next six matches through Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami and Monte-Carlo, but he got back to winning ways in Barcelona as he made the semi-finals, losing in a quality three-setter to Medvedev.

However, Nishikori didn’t play well in Madrid last week - a tournament he usually flourishes at. The former U.S. Open runner-up struggled significantly in a 7-5 7-5 win over Bolivian journeyman Hugo Dellien in the opening round, making life much tougher than it needed to be as he consistently wasted chances to close out the match earlier, while after eventually scraping through that one, he was eliminated in fairly routine fashion by Stan Wawrinka, who still isn’t playing the tennis we know he’s capable of. All up, Nishikori is nowhere near his best at the moment, which will give his opponent - who has been playing some solid tennis on clay this season - a lot of confidence on Thursday.

Unlike most of his American countryman, Taylor Fritz relishes playing on clay, and the 21-year-old has been producing some impressive results on the surface so far this clay campaign. Fritz has won a round at four of the five European clay events he’s played, moving past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Diego Schwartzman to make the R16 in Monte-Carlo, losing to Djokovic, while it was Nishikori who got the better of him in the second round of Barcelona after he took out compatriot Reilly Opelka. Fritz lost in the opening round of Estoril the following week to the rising Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, but he’s been very good over the last fortnight, qualifying for the Madrid main draw and beating Grigor Dimitrov before running into Djokovic once more, while he’s qualified into the Rome main draw for the first time this week and conquered the in-form Guido Pella, who has the most wins on clay out of anyone in 2019, 6-3 6-4 to set up Wednesday’s showdown with Nishikori.

Fritz burst onto the scene back in 2016 as a teenager when he made the Memphis Open final (losing to Nishikori) and soared to No. 53 in the world after making the second round of Miami, but his progress stagnated over the next couple of years as he struggled to make the full-time transition to the main tour. However, Fritz returned to form in 2018, registering a 23-20 record as he made the semi-finals in Houston and Chengdu, the fourth round at Indian Wells, the third round at the U.S. Open and the quarter-finals of Basel and Lyon, along with securing the Newport Beach Challenger title and finishing runner-up in Noumea to end the season inside the top 50. Fritz hit a career-high ranking of No. 40 after starting the season with a quarter-final in Auckland, a third round at the Australian Open and defending his Newport Beach Challenger title, but four straight losses through February and March means he came into Rome at No. 52 in the world.

As mentioned, Nishikori has beaten Fritz in their two previous encounters in Memphis 2016 and Barcelona last month, with both victories coming in straight sets. There’s no doubt Fritz is improving and is developing into a very solid clay court player, but this is a match-up that favours Nishikori, and it does usually take the very best to beat him in Rome. Is Fritz up to the challenge?

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Nishikori vs Fritz ATP Rome live streaming, preview and tips - Nishikori seeks third straight win over Fritz in Rome opener

Kei Nishikori begins his Rome Masters campaign on Thursday as he targets a third straight win over rising American youngster Taylor Fritz in the second round.

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