BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) – Japanese star Kei Nishikori enjoyed a solid start to the year when he downed American Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-5 in the second round of the Brisbane International Wednesday.
Fifth seed Nishikori, who received a first round bye, was never in any real trouble against Johnson despite being made to work hard for the win. Nishikori enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2014, winning four tournaments and making the final of the US Open.
He broke the American once in each set and faced just two break points on his own serve early in the second.
The world number five will now take on either Bernard Tomic or Thanasi Kokkinakis in the quarter-finals. Fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov was given a huge scare by Frenchman Jeremy Chardy before scraping through 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8).
Chardy was a clear frontrunner in the first set, with his booming forehand wreaking havoc, before the Bulgarian clawed his way back in the second. He broke Chardy’s serve in the ninth game then held to level the match at a set apiece.
Games went with serve in the third, ensuring a dramatic tiebreak which saw momentum swing back and forth between the two, who regularly practise together.
Chardy had two match points but couldn’t convert either, then saved two himself before Dimitrov finally clinched the match in two hours 28 minutes.