The top seed Kei Nishikori is through to the second round in Rotterdam after a hard-fought 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert in two hours and 11 minutes for the ninth win of the season. The Frenchman is off to a great start of the season and he played in the final in Montpellier on Sunday, playing well today and having the opportunity to prolong the match even more.
Kei had no aces but he dropped just 16 points in 13 service games, saving three out of four break points (three in the last game of the match) and taming his strokes in a more effective way than Pierre-Hugues who sprayed 40 unforced errors.
The Frenchman was under constant pressure in his games, facing 11 break points and suffering three breaks that were enough for Nishikori to cross the finish line first and advance into the second round. After six easy holds on both sides, Herbert had to play against five break points at 3-3, fending them off to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard and beaking the Japanese at 15 in game eight to move 5-3 up thanks to a deep return that Kei failed to control.
Serving for the set in game nine, Pierre-Hugues hit three winners to close it in style, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter. Kei took charge in set number two, dropping three points on serve and forging a 3-1 lead when Herbert sent a backhand wide in game four.
A forehand down the line winner pushed Nishikori 5-1 up and the Japanese blasted four winners in the next game to secure the set and gain the momentum before the third set. There, he earned a break in the third game with a forehand winner, serving well and having to serve out for the match at 5-4.
Out of sudden, Pierre-Hugues made one last push to create those three break points but it wasn't to be for him, with Kei saving them all and forcing an error from his opponent to book the place in round two where he will face Ernests Gulbis.
The Czech Tomas Berdych needed a wild card to enter the main draw but he will be able to make direct entries if he continues to play like this, outplaying Gilles Simon 7-6 6-4 in two hours and ten minutes for the place in the last 16 and the 11th win of the season.
Playing against each other for the 15th time, 2014 champion Berdych battled past the French rival to earn the eighth win against him, winning just two points more and scoring an extra break that made the difference. Simon saved seven out of 12 break points and he stole the Czech's serve four times, serving for the opener twice and missing a set point in the tie break.
The second set was even more grueling and Berdych claimed it with three breaks on his tally, clinching the last one at 4-4 with a forehand winner and moving forward with a hold in game ten to stay on the title course. After three straight losses against the Belgian, Gael Monfils took down David Goffin 7-6, 7-5 in an hour and 46 minutes, taking just two points more than the struggling rival, breaking him four times and giving serve away thrice.
Goffin had a chance in both sets, creating a 5-4 gap with a return winner in the opener before ruining everything with a terrible service game, allowing Gael to break back at love and level the score at 5-5. The Frenchman repelled two break points in game 11 and he won the tie break 7-5 with a volley winner that gave him a massive boost.
David led 4-1 in set number two although that wasn't enough to stay in contention, losing serve in games seven and 11 to let Monfils serve for the win at 6-5. He saved three break points to avoid a tie break, forcing an error from Goffin to emerge at the top and kick off the campaign with positive vibes.
The Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov has scored just two wins so far in 2019 outside Davis Cup and he will not improve that number in Rotterdam, suffering a terrible 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Tallon Griekspoor, the world no.
211 who stunned Stan Wawrinka here last year for the only ATP win before this match. Tallon won six points more than the Russian, facing just three break points and losing serve once. On the other hand, Karen faced eight break chances and he could defend only five of those, struggling more and more on serve as the match progressed for another early exit.
That certainly wasn't the case in the opening set when he did everything right behind the initial shot and moved in front with a swift break in game two. Tallon sprayed a forehand error in the ninth game to hand the first set to his rival but he was ready to give his best in the rest of the match, firing a forehand winner in the second game of the second set for his first break of the encounter.
He held at 15 at 5-3 to grab the set and send the action into a decider where the momentum was on his side, breaking Karen twice to open a 4-0 lead. A home favorite cemented one of the biggest wins of his career with a forehand winner in game eight, setting the possible second round clash against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Thursday.