Nishioka holds off Auger-Aliassime in three-set thriller

Rebecca BRYAN
AFP

Indian Wells (United States) (AFP) - Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka battled Felix Auger-Aliassime and his own emotions through three topsy-turvy sets Monday to grab a 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) victory in the ATP Indian Wells Masters.

Trailing the 18-year-old Canadian by a set and a break, Nishioka roared back, winning five of the last six games of the second set and streaking to a 5-1 lead in the third.

But Auger-Aliassime, whose second-round upset of Stefanos Tsitsipas was his first over a top-10 foe, fought back to level the set, saving three match points as he forced the tiebreaker.

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He was up 5-3 in the tiebreaker, but Nishioka's consistency made the difference and the 23-year-old emerged with the victory after two hours and 56 minutes.

"It's very tough to play in that situation," Nishioka said. "It was feeling so tight and feeling very mad when he came back because I had a chance to win already -- three times match point.

"But he saved them with really good shots... I just tried my best and I found a way, finally."

Auger-Aliassime, who reached the final in Rio last month, came out firing from the baseline, doing most of his damage off his forehand.

But more errors crept in late in the second set and he began to look a little weary.

"He just started playing high on my backhand. I wasn't hitting as many forehands. I was struggling to dictate the points, struggling to move, the serve, as well. From there, it was tough," Auger-Aliassime said. "He was really dominating."

Auger-Aliassime said he just told himself: 'OK, I'm down match points. OK I'm going to try to win this one.'

"I gave myself a chance," he said. "I can be happy with myself for that."

Nishioka is in the round of 16 at Indian Wells for the second time.

Shortly after he reached the fourth round in the California desert in 2017 he tore a knee ligament at the Miami Masters.

With that behind him, he's eager to go further.

"Two years ago I couldn't take my chances to (make the) quarter-final," he said. "Hopefully I can make it this time."

To do so he'll have to get past another talented teenager, Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.

Kecmanovic, a lucky loser who gained entry to the second round when fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson withdrew, toppled fellow Serbian Laslo Djere, the 30th seed 6-2, 7-6 (7/3).

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