Florida-via-Japan sensation Kei Nishikori, the 18-year-old winner of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships last week, will face American No. 1 Andy Roddick on Thursday night at the SAP Open in San Jose.
Roddick barely made the second-round meeting after a 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(5) win over big serving Aussie Chris “Penthouse” Guccione, who only made the main draw as a lucky loser when another player withdrew due to injury.
“Tonight I played OK,” Roddick said after surviving 20 aces from Guccione. “I’m glad I have something to show for it. If my biggest problem is the passing shot, that’s a good thing. I’m worried about getting the serve back. That’s the kind of match where you can play horribly and win or play well and lose.”
Nishikori advanced into the second round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Argentine Diego Hartfield.
“I want to play Roddick; that’s why I won today,” Nishikori said. “I saw he was watching, and I got so nervous. For two games I couldn’t even move.”
After his win at Delray Beach, Nishikori revealed that he had taken a set off Roger Federer in practice last year at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami where he competed in the junior draw. The Japanese 18-year-old has in two weeks displayed a level-headed mental approach beyond his years, and a gliding court sense reminiscent of the world No. 1 Swiss, with the Japanese media dubbing him the “Japanese Federer.”
While it may seem like a lot to live up to, Nishikori has thus far dealt with the pressure. Roddick for one is not taking him lightly going into their Thursday night encounter.
“He’s full of confidence,” Roddick said. “Ten days ago he’s 244 (ranked), playing first-round qualifiers at Delray Beach. Now, he’s a player. He has nothing to lose, he has momentum on his side and he’s confident. That’s a lot to deal with.”
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