Nishikori happy with home comforts at Wimbledon

Kei Nishikori admitted the support of a large contingent of Japanese fans at Wimbledon had fuelled his record-equalling 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Argentina's Leonardo Mayer.

Japan's Kei Nishikori hits a return against Argentina's Leonardo Mayer during their second round match at the Wimbledon tennis tournament in southwest London, on June 27, 2013. Nishikori equalled his best performance at Wimbledon as the Japanese 12th seed reached the third round with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Mayer.

Nishikori last year became the first Japanese man to reach the third round at the All England Club since 1995, but the 12th seed is aiming even higher this time after matching that achievement on Thursday.

The world number 11 believes he can emulate his former junior coach Shuzo Matsuoka, who made the Wimbledon last eight in 1995, before losing to Pete Sampras, in Japan's best men's performance at the tournament.

The 23-year-old next faces Italian 23rd seed Andreas Seppi and he knows he will once again be able to draw inspiration from the backing of the Japanese fans following his every move at Wimbledon.

Fans flocked to Court 12 to watch both Nishikori and 42-year-old Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, who beat Alexandra Cadantu earlier in the day to become the oldest woman ever to reach the third round at Wimbledon.

"To have two Japanese players win in a row on same court was fun," Nishikori said.

"Kimiko can play really well on grass. A lot of Japanese came up to see us.

"It was good support, especially as it's not my country.

"I heard a lot of support. It's always good and fun to play with the home crowd."

A victory over Seppi would leave Nishikori just one win away from equalling his historic performance at the 2012 Australian Open, when he became the first Japanese male quarter-finalist in Melbourne for 80 years.

"I hope I can do it. Seppi is a tricky player, especially on grass. He's steady on the groundstrokes, so it's not easy to break his rhythm.

"But I'm playing well, serving well, returning well, everything is going well, so hopefully I can go further."

Nishikori, who reached the fourth round at the French Open, before losing to eventual winner Rafael Nadal, made a fast start as he broke Mayer in the second game of the match.

Nishikori has practised with Mayer on a regular basis for several years, so the world number 84's game held few surprises.

The Argentine saved three set points at 4-5, but Nishikori kept the pressure on and won the set in a tie-break.

Nishikori needed a small strapping fixed to his left knee before the start of the second set, but looked untroubled as he broke twice to take a two-set lead.

When Nishikori landed another break in the first game of the third set, the match was effectively over.

"It's not easy to win like that, especially on grass," Nishikori said. "He had a good serve today. It's not easy to return and break him. It's not easy.

"But I was able to take some chances in the tie-break. Then I broke him first in the second and third sets. It was good match.

"I was hitting hard, especially my backhand. I think my ground-strokes were pretty good today."

The Wimbledon injury curse continued on Thursday, with nine players having pulled out in the second round -- setting a tournament record for the most withdrawals in one round.

In the circumstances, Nishikori was relieved to emerge unscathed and he admitted movement on the courts was tricky at times.

"For me it's been the same the last couple of years. A lot of people slipping, getting injured," he said.

"I'm always slipping, too, but I try not to get injured. It's always tough on grass."

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Writer: AFP
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