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Madrid Masters: Kei Nishikori downs Karen Khachenov; Andrey Rublev battles back

Kei Nishikori serving Madrid

Kei Nishikori and Andrey Rublev both came back from a set down to secure their place in the next round of the Madrid Masters.

Nishikori beat Russian Karen Khachenov 6-7, 6-2, 6-2 in the opening round of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old Japanese saved a set point to force a first set tiebreak – which he lost after having two set points from 6-4. But he recovered strongly – breaking the world number 23 twice in both the second and third sets to get the victory.

“I was feeling much better after first set. I think I was a little bit tight and a little too conservative maybe,” said Nishikori in a post-match interview.

“I think I could [have been] a little more aggressive. So I tried to step in a little bit more than the first set. Then everything started working well.”

Nishikori will now face Alexander Zverev in the next round.

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Meanwhile Rublev beat American Tommy Paul 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in an intense battle, with momentum swinging back and forward over the net.

Rublev lost a 4-2 lead in the first set with Paul forcing a tie-break in which the American fought back by winning six points in a row.

Paul seemed to be fatigued in the second set allowing Rublev to take advantage, but the third set was much more even with Rublev saving a break point before going on to break his opponents serve the very next game.

The result puts Rublev one ahead of Stefanos Tsitsipas for this year's most ATP wins in 2021 with 27.

Rublev's next opponent is still undecided as John Isner awaits the winner of Roberto Bautista Agut and Marco Cecchinato.

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