Nishikori thanks rain after sinking plucky Chung

Kei Nishikori (Getty Images)
Kei Nishikori (Getty Images)

Paris - Japan's Kei Nishikori admitted Saturday's rain interruption was crucial after fighting off a fierce five-set challenge from rising South Korean talent Hyeon Chung to reach the French Open last 16.

Eighth seed Nishikori led the all-Asian duel two sets to one but trailed by a double break at 3-0 down in the fourth set when rain halted play.

Chung forced the contest into a deciding set as play resumed on Sunday, but the world number 67 double-faulted on match point to gift Nishikori a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 0-6, 6-4 victory.

"I think the rain helped me a lot, because I was really down in the fourth set and mentally I wasn't ready," said Nishikori, who received a code violation Saturday after smashing a racquet in frustration.

"I knew I had to change something to beat him today, so I think I made some adjustments to make little better than yesterday.

"Mentally I was a little more fresh, and physically, too, little more have energy on my legs. That helps me a lot."

Nishikori will play unseeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, conqueror of Alexander Zverev in the opening round, as he tries to reach the quarter-finals for the second time in three years.

It was the first third-round meeting between two Asian players at Roland Garros, with 21-year-old Chung conceding Saturday's weather delay arrived at an inopportune time.

"If I play yesterday, maybe better for me," said Chung, when asked if he would have preferred to stay out on court.

But he was keen remain upbeat despite an agonising defeat.

"It's great experience in Paris. I make third round first time in Grand Slam. And maybe I have more experience and I have to enjoy. I'm looking forward to another Grand Slam," he said.

"It was great honour to play with Kei. He's a great player in the world. And today was tough match against Kei.

"It was really fast and good stroke-making. But I tried my best and maybe I'm waiting for another day."

Chung fell short in his bid to become just the second Korean player after Lee Hyung-Taik to reach the last 16 of a major.

But he hopes his performances in Paris can inspire more interest back home.

"In my country tennis is not popular yet. So I want to make more popular in Korea," said Chung.

"I want to break my highest ranking. So maybe I want to make top 50 first, and then maybe if I make top 50 then change (my goal) again."

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