MELBOURNE Asian number one Kei Nishikori endured a grueling five-set marathon in the Melbourne heat before taking his place in the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-3 5-7 6-2 4-6 6-2 win over Marinko Matosevic on Tuesday.
The 16th seeded Japanese got the better of his Australian opponent after three hours, 40 minutes in the full glare of the sun on court two, sealing the victory when an exhausted Matosevic slapped a backhand into the net.
"Nish! Nish! Nish!" chanted the large Japanese contingent in the crowd, who had more than held their own against the vocal locals, particularly as the tiring players slugged it out in a deuce-heavy final set.
Nishikori, watched by new coach and former French Open champion Michael Chang, next meets Serbian Dusan Lajovic as he bids to match, or even better, his run to the quarter-finals at the "Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific" in 2012.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)