Nishikori smashes racket during first-round loss in Brazil

Kei Nishikori smashed his racket into the red clay after losing the first set on Tuesday, an unusual burst of anger from the usually calm Japanese player.

Destroying the racket didn’t help.

He lost the second set, too, as Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci upset the top seed 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Rio Open.

“It could be the worst match in the last few years,” Nishikori said.

Asked if it was the angriest he’s ever been on a court, he replied: “Yes, it could have been.”

Besides pulverizing the racket, Nishikori also complained about the “heavy balls,” and the “high bounces” on the surface in Rio as his trip around the Latin American clay circuit ended quickly.

The No. 5-ranked Nishikori reached the final last week in Buenos Aires, losing to Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine. It was his sixth straight loss in a final since winning the Memphis Open a year ago.

“I think the ball was the most difficult to adjust to,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything today.”

It was a different story for Bellucci, the home country favorite who pulled a huge upset during Carnival week in Brazil.

“You don’t see Kei break the racket often,” Bellucci said.

The No. 75-ranked Bellucci had lost his previous two matches against Nishikori, including a three-set loss two years ago in the first round of the French Open.

“For me it’s amazing to have a victory like this in Brazil,” Bellucci said. “He’s an unbelievable player. A top five. So it was amazing.”

Nishikori’s loss makes No. 2-seeded Dominic Thiem the favorite for the title. Thiem had a 6-4, 7-5 win over Janko Tipsarevic and will face another Serbian on Wednesday, when he meets Dusan Lajovic.

In other first-round matches, No. 4-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta beat Brazil’s Joao Souza 6-3, 6-2. No. 5 Albert Ramos-Vinolas defeated Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-0.

No. 6-seeded David Ferrer lost to Dolgopolov 6-4, 6-4.

Raonic gets easy win

Delray Beach Florida AP

No. 1 seed Milos Raonic opened with an easy win Tuesday in his first appearance at the Delray Beach Open.

Raonic, the fourth-ranked player in the world, defeated American qualifier Tim Smyczek 6-1, 6-4. The 26-year-old Canadian advanced to a second-round match against 59th-ranked Borna Coric of Croatia, who beat Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-2, 6-3.

No. 3 seed Jack Sock defeated Radu Albot 6-4, 7-6. Sock, the 21st-ranked player in the world and top American, was challenged by his opponent from Moldova. Albot was up 2-1 in the tiebreaker before Sock won six straight points, finishing the match with a strong forehand down the line.

Sock plays next against 99th-ranked Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who defeated Dustin Brown of Germany 6-3, 6-3.

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