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Nishikori vs Paire ATP Dubai Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Dubai debutant, Nishikori opens against Paire

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 25 Feb 2019
  • Kei Nishikori vs Benoit Paire is live from Dubai on Tuesday, 26 February from 4:00pm local time/ 12:00pm GMT
  • Nishikori leads 5-2 on head-to-head
Kei Nishikori. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Top seed, Kei Nishikori makes his debut at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday as he takes on Frenchman, Benoit Paire in the first round.

Nishikori usually spends this period of the season in North America, but the Japanese has altered his schedule this year, and is competing in Dubai for the first time in his career.

The 29-year-old is looking to build on a fine start to the season, which has seen him reach the quarter finals or better in each of his three tournaments this year. It's in complete contrast with the same period last year, when the Japanese was still re-planting his feet on the tour having just returned from wrist injury. Nishikori had missed the home stretch of the 2017 season, and did not return to the tour until the end of January 2018, when he played a couple of Challenger tournaments, but he slowly worked his way back into the tour, and was operating very close to optimum level by the end of the year, reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, making finals in Tokyo and Vienna, ending the year inside the top-ten, having being ranked as low as 39th at the start of April.

He has carried that momentum into 2019, opening with a title run in Brisbane- his first title in almost three years, thus ending a run of nine consecutive defeats in tour-level finals; he then made the quarter finals at the Australian Open, beaten by eventual champion, Novak Djokovic. His most recent tournament was in Rotterdam, where he made the semi-finals before falling to Stan Wawrinka. Overall, Nishikori is a very impressive 11-2 for the season, and will attempt to keep that form going when he takes on Benoit Paire in Dubai on Tuesday.

Benoit Paire. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Paire is playing in Dubai for the third straight season, and will hope to make a bigger impression that he'd managed in his previous two appearances, when he won just one of his three matches. He was beaten by Roger Federer on debut in 2017, and fell to Borna Coric in the second round last season, after beating Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round.

The Frenchman has stuttered to an ordinary 4-6 record this season- he made the quarter-finals in his 2019 opener in Pune, beating Thiago Monteiro and Jiri Vesely before losing to Gilles Simon, but he has won just two matches since then, in Montpellier and Marseille, while he crashed to opening round losses in Auckland, the Australian Open and Rotterdam. In between all of that, he played a Challenger tournament in Rennes, where he made the quarter finals before losing to Yannick Maden, via retirement.

Paire's struggle for consecutive wins is a continuation of his form in the second half of last season, when he won just seven matches in his last 12 tournaments, none of those victories were recorded back-to-back. As a consequence of his poor run of results, the 29-year-old, who reached a career-high ranking of 18th as recently as 2016, is now ranked 65th in the world. 

Despite his indifferent form, the enigmatic shot-maker always carries a threat around him, due to his undoubted talents, and the possibility of him suddenly zoning in at any time. He possesses two victories over his next opponent, Nishikori, both in 2015 at the US Open and Tokyo, but Nishikori leads the head-to-head 5-2, and has won the last three meetings.

With a decent serve and good quality off the ground, especially from the backhand wing, Paire has the ability to cause Nishikori serious problems, but as is always the case with the Frenchman, does he have the discipline to stay with Nishikori through the course of a match? Probably not. Mind you, Nishikori is no slouch in the shot-making department- he can rip them off both wings and in any direction- and that, along with his supreme movement and far greater consistency, is why he is a heavy favourite to progress on Tuesday.

Kei Nishikori vs Benoit Paire is live from Dubai on Tuesday, 26 February from 4:00pm local time/ 12:00pm GMT

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Nishikori vs Paire ATP Dubai Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Dubai debutant, Nishikori opens against Paire

Kei Nishikori makes his Dubai debut on Tuesday when he takes on Benoit Paire. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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