PARIS – Kei Nishikori outlasted rising South Korean Chung Hyeon in five sets on Sunday to advance to the French Open round of 16 for the third straight year.
In a match that started on Saturday before being suspended by rain, eighth seed and world No. 9 Nishikori downed the 67th-ranked Chung 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 0-6, 6-4.
His next opponent will be Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco. Nishikori is 3-2 in his career against the 33-year-old Spaniard, but hasn’t lost to him since 2012.
“It was a tough match,” Nishikori said. “I was able to keep fighting. The match was not going my way in the third and fourth sets. By focusing on my returns, I thought I could regain my rhythm.”
Nishikori was trailing 3-0 in the fourth set when rain stopped play, but the 21-year-old Chung forced a fifth set within minutes of Sunday morning’s restart on Court 1.
Once the decisive set began, Nishikori’s aggressive play and accuracy became the theme, with the bulk of points being determined by either his winners or unforced errors. Both players survived double break points before Nishikori cashed in, breaking Chung in the fourth game to go up 3-1.
Still a break down, Chung began asserting himself in the eighth game. He won six straight points to hold serve and stave off defeat, before threatening Nishikori’s serve and breaking him.
But the upset was not to be. A Nishikori backhand winner brought up match point and Chung ended the 3-hour, 51-minute slug fest with a double fault.
On Saturday, Nishikori saved set point in the first set, then held his serve with some solid shots before breaking Chung to take a 1-0 lead.
Nishikori wrapped up the second set by breaking Chung in the ninth game, but Chung overcame a 4-3 deficit to capture the tiebreak in the third set.
Chung broke twice at the start of the fourth set, prompting a clearly frustrated Nishikori to smash his racket to the clay and break it. Nishikori, who received a warning for his conduct from the umpire, then had treatment on his back before play was halted.