Fixture: Kei Nishikori vs Karen Khachanov
Date: 4 May 2021
Tournament: 2021 Mutua Madrid Open
Round: First round (Round of 64)
Venue: Madrid, Spain
Category: ATP Masters 1000
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €2,614,465
Match timing: 11 am local time, 2.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Kei Nishikori vs Karen Khachanov preview
The first round of the the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open will see an exciting battle between two former top 10 players - Kei Nishikori and Karen Khachanov - on Tuesday.
Nishikori has traditionally done well in Madrid, having reached the summit clash back in 2014. He has an additional couple of semifinal finishes here, and will be hopeful of posting another strong showing this year.
Khachanov, on the other hand, is yet to find a way past the second round of the Madrid Open. He did have a few encouraging results at the start of this year, but hasn't quite managed to find his footing on clay yet.
The Russian started with a win over Serbia's Laslo Dere in Monte Carlo, but that remains his only win on the red dirt this year. He does have a power-packed game that is likely to benefit from the somewhat quicker conditions in Madrid, but will still enter the contest as an underdog.
Kei Nishikori vs Karen Khachanov head-to-head
Kei Nishikori and Karen Khachanov have split their prior meetings, so their current head-to-head stands at a 2-2 deadlock. The two have never met on clay.
The Japanese took the duo's last meeting, which came on the hardcourts of Vienna in 2018.
Kei Nishikori vs Karen Khachanov prediction
This is a fairly well-balanced matchup, but Kei Nishikori's past record in Madrid and decent run of form in the lead-up to the encounter might give him a slight edge.
The Japanese looked strong during his third-round run in Barcelona. He beat seasoned claycourt specialists Guido Pella and Cristian Garin, before taking a set off eventual champion Rafael Nadal.
Nishikori has a strong baseline game and is one of the best movers on the court. Needless to say, Karen Khachanov will need to be at his very best to find a way through his opponent's rock-solid defense.
The Russian will need to step out with a certain level of intent, and avoid indulging in long baseline rallies against Nishikori. The Japanese is likely to have a distinctive advantage the longer a rally - and the match as a whole - goes on.
Prediction: Kei Nishikori to win in three sets.