Japanese lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka continued his giant-killing spree in Indian Wells by pulling off a tremendous comeback to take out No13 seed Tomas Berdych and reach the fourth round.
The diminutive Nishioka, who beat 19th-seeded ace machine Ivo Karlovic in round two, fought back from a 1-6, 2-5 deficit to outlast Berdych 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in a two-hour, 21-minute battle.
Nishioka, who lost to Elias Ymer in the final round of qualifying, only made it into the draw after Dmitry Tursunov withdrew with a leg injury. In an ironic twist of fate, Nishioka faced Ymer again, this time in the first round of the main draw, and beat the Swede to advance.
Following his impressive wins of Karlovic (who is 41cm taller than him) and Berdych, the 21-year-old Nishioka is now the first lucky loser to reach the fourth round at Indian Wells.
His win over Berdych was the biggest of his career and just the second over a top-20 player.
The 70th-ranked Japanese lefty next takes on third-seeded Stan Wawrinka, who beat Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 6-3 to make the last-16.
“Today was wonderful coming back. But at the beginning I didn’t play my best tennis, but this is, I think, not technique and just on mentality, and then I never lost my mentality. That’s why I think I won today,” said Nishioka after his triumphant comeback.
“I was down 1-6, 2-5, and I tried to do my best, but today I couldn’t figure out how can I beat Berdych,” explained
“But down 2-5, I tried to find a way, and then I think he gave me a little bit chances. So I find a way, and then just kept trying every point. Then he showed me, like, a little bit angry, a little bit feeling tired. So I figured out how to win from down 2-5.
“And then my body feeling like I cannot move, like, that much, but just stay on focus and try fight. And then I find a way.”
Nishioka's IW:— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) March 14, 2017
Loses to Ymer in Q2
Beats Ymer as lucky loser in R1
Takes out Karlovic(41cm taller than him)
Beats Berdych from 1-6 2-5 down
Berdych, a semi-finalist in Indian Wells in 2013, held match point in the 10th game of the second set and served for the win twice but unraveled against an inspired Nishioka.
After Nishioka forced the decisive set by winning the tiebreaker, the two traded breaks to open the third before Nishioka broke for a 2-1.
Although Berdych saved one match point in the ninth game, Nishioka closed it out in the next with a love game to reach the fourth round of a Masters tournament for the first time.
Nishioka said he didn’t change his game plan match to complete his comeback but he noticed Berdych was visibly “nervous”.
“I think (in his) last match against Fratangelo, the time he was, I think, nervous as well in the second set. So I can see he’s going to be nervous. So, I mean, I didn’t know he gonna do, like, unforced errors like today. But, yeah, but I knew he gonna be nervous. I knew it,” added Nishioka.
Wawrinka reached the fourth round by maintaining his clean record against Kohlschreiber, making it five wins in five encounters with the German.
“It was a really good match,” said Wawrinka, who owns three grand slam titles but has won just one of the tour’s coveted Masters titles.
“The first set was not easy, for sure, but in general I’m happy with my game. I was serving well. I think I’m moving better and better and it’s all positive so far.”
With superstars Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all jammed into the bottom quarter of the draw, Wawrinka’s path looks wide open. But the Swiss said he didn’t think of it that way.
“It’s not like I have been in a lot of semi-finals, finals in Masters 1000,” said Wawrinka. “So I need to focus on every match.”