The first ATP tournament of the season on clay is up and running in Kitzbuhel, gathering 28 players in the chase for the title and 250 points. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Kitzbuhel is the first clay-court event of the season.
The defending champion Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini, Roberto Bautista Agut, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime were on the initial entry list, all withdrawing and leaving the door open for other players.
The 6th seed Kei Nishikori entered the court on Tuesday for the first time since the last year's US Open, losing to Miomir Kecmanovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 58 minutes. As was expected after such a long break, injuries, and surgeries, Kei looked a bit rusty, dropping too many points behind the initial shot and losing ground in the second set's closing stages, having nothing left in the tank in the decider.
They both struggled to find the first serve and Miomir did a better job once he would put it in, suffering five breaks but delivering seven from ten opportunities to move over the top and secure the tenth victory of the season.
Former world no. 4 was off to a flying start, taking the opening game with a forehand winner and landing another one a few minutes later to forge a 2-0 advantage. The Janapese forced an error from the Serb in game three for a hold at love, racing into a 4-0 advantage when Miomir sprayed a forehand error in game four.
The youngster started to play better in the fifth game, creating a break chance that Nishikori denied with a service winner and sending a loose backhand to propel Kei 5-0 in front. Kecmanovih put his name on the scoreboard with a hold at love in game six, pulling one break back after a double fault from Kei and holding at 15 to reduce the deficit to 3-5.
In his first match in a year, Kei Nishikori lost in the first round in Kitzbuhel.
The Serb was back in action with a backhand down the line winner that secured a break in game nine for him, only to give serve away a few minutes later and hand the set to Nishikori.
Nothing could separate them in the opening six games of the second set, trading breaks in games seven and eight to remain neck and neck. Nishikori hit a double fault in the encounter's crucial moment in game nine to suffer another break, allowing Miomir to hold with an ace a few minutes later and introduce a decider.
With the momentum on his side, Miomir earned a break at the beginning of the final set, securing another one following Nishikori's loose forehand. The Japanese pulled one break back in game four but Miomir was not to be denied, delivering another break at 4-2 and moving over the top with a hold at love for the place in the second round.