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Nishikori digs deep to book second round berth

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 16/1/17 Japan's Kei Nishikori signs autographs as he walks off the court after winning his Men's singles first round match against Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 16/1/17 Japan's Kei Nishikori signs autographs as he walks off the court after winning his Men's singles first round match against Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Kei Nishikori was forced to dig deep to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Monday with the world number five taken the distance by Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov before eking out a 5-7 6-1 6-4 6-7(6) 6-2 win.

Japan's Nishikori prevailed after three and a half hours on a baking Hisense Arena, recovering from an early wobble against his Russian opponent that vindicated his call to withdraw from an exhibition event last week to rest a hip injury.

The 27-year-old, who needed medical treatment late in the fifth set, had an encouraging start to the year when he reached the final of a Brisbane warm-up tournament, where he lost to Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov.

Nishikori has long carried Asia's hopes of a first male gramd slam champion and he will next play Frenchman Jeremy Chardy after the world number 72 eased into the second round when Spain's Nicolas Almagro pulled out with an injury.

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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