Melbourne - Japanese hope Kei Nishikori complained his form
was "up and down" despite beating Jeremy Chardy in straight sets to
reach the Australian Open third round on Wednesday.
The fifth seed, who toiled for over three-and-a-half hours
in a first-round five-setter with Andrey Kuznetsov, won 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in just
over two hours against 72nd-ranked Chardy.
It was Nishikori's fourth straight victory over the
Frenchman and earned him a place in the third round in Melbourne for the
seventh year in a row.
Nishikori, who was backed by plenty of exuberant Japanese
support at Hisense Arena, will face either Slovak qualifier Lukas Lacko or
Israeli Dudi Sela in the next round.
"It was too much up and down, too many service breaks
for me, but it's great to win in straight sets," said Nishikori, who had
his serve broken three times by Chardy.
"I am hoping to get my ranking up and I played much
better than I did in the first round."
Nishikori is looking to improve on his three quarter-final
appearances at the Australian Open, losing to Andy Murray in 2012, Stan
Wawrinka in 2015 and Novak Djokovic last year.
Nishikori became the first Asian man to contest a Grand Slam
final when he lost to Marin Cilic at the 2014 US Open after defeating three
top-10 players - Milos Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic along the way.
While Nishikori had a marathon opening match this week,
Chardy only played four games in the first round after his opponent, Nicolas
Almagro, retired with a calf strain in the first set.
Nishikori broke Chardy's serve seven times in the match and
had 18 break point opportunities, indicating his superiority over the
Nishikori broke Chardy's opening serve and broke again in
the eighth game on the way to taking the first set.
The 27-year-old Japanese was broken twice in the second set
but he broke back both times and then held set point in the 10th game.
Chardy netted a backhand to end a 52-minute struggle as
Nishikori took control with a 2-0 sets lead.
They traded service breaks again at the start of the third set before a netted Chardy forehand gave Nishikori what turned out to be the decisive break.