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Del Potro • Nishikori Set For Third-Round Showdown @ Miami Open Tennis on Sunday

Kei Nishikori of Japan in action against John Millman of Australia during a second round match at the Miami Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA, 23 March 2018. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER



By Ricky Dimon


Juan Martin Del Potro and Kei Nishikori were on a collision course for the Indian Wells fourth round when that draw was revealed. It never happened because Nishikori ultimately withdrew due to a recurring wrist injury.


The showdown will happen at the Miami Open, this time even earlier–in the third round. Del Potro and Nishikori booked their spots in Sunday’s marquee matchup thanks to respective opening victories on Monday over Robin Haase and John Millman. The Argentine treated his raucous supporting crowd to a 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 defeat of Haase during the night session, while the world No. 33 from Japan battled past Millman 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 after two hours and 51 minutes.

“It could be a very difficult match for me,” Del Potro said of Nishikori, with whom the recent Indian Wells champion practiced in Key Biscayne on Wednesday. “Kei has a very good two-handed backhand; good returns. And he’s playing well. He feels 100 percent, free of pain in his wrist. And he’s a dangerous guy on tour. I mean, if he has a good day he can beat all of the other players. I must play even better than [against Haase].”


The head-to-head series stands at 5-2 in favor of Del Potro, but Nishikori has won two of their last three meetings dating back to the fall of 2016–after they did not square off once from 2013 through 2015. Nishikori got the job done 7-5, 6-4 on the indoor hard courts of Basel two years ago, Del Potro won 7-6(4), 6-3 on the Rome clay in 2017, and Nishikori prevailed 6-4, 7-5 a few months later in Washington, D.C.


Although both players are making their way back from extensive injury histories, Del Potro’s latest comeback is much further along given that he made it through basically a full 2017 campaign unscathed. The 29-year-old is back up to No. 6 in the rankings thanks in part to an 18-3 record this season that includes triumphs in Indian Wells and Acapulco. He is currently in the midst of a 12-match winning streak.


Nishikori dabbled on the Challenger circuit earlier this season and is just 4-2 at the ATP level. He skipped Indian Wells after losing to Denis Shapovalov right away in Acapulco.


“I’m happy to win; it wasn’t an easy match,” the former world No. 4 said after beating Millman. “I didn’t play the past two weeks, so I had to get used to playing points again. But in the third set I thought I played well. I am feeling very good and playing with intensity for three hours today is good for my confidence.”


Sunday’s only all-unseeded contest, meanwhile, will feature Joao Sousa and Jared Donaldson. Sousa, who upset Alexander Zverev in Indian Wells, erased David Goffin 6-0, 6-1 on Friday. Donaldson, a semifinalist in Acapulco, has advanced past veterans Marcos Baghdatis and Feliciano Lopez.


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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