2/20/13 5:07 AM | Ricky Dimon
Kei Nishikori holds off Illya Marchenko in two competitive sets on Tuesday in Memphis. Nishikori is joined in the second round by James Blake, who ousted Florian Mayer in three sets.
(5) Kei Nishikori d. (Q) Illya Marchenko 6-4, 7-5
Nishikori held off Marchenko in one hour and 28 minutes during first-round action at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships on Tuesday night. Although it did not go the three-set distance, there were more than a few momentum swings. Marchenko, who did well to qualify for the main draw over the weekend, battled back from a break down in the opening set but then donated serve at 4-4. Nishikori serve it out one game later.
Memphis' No. 5 seed trailed by a break in the second and he even saw his opponent serve to force a decider at 5-3. Nishikori broke, however, and the 146th-ranked Ukrainian could not recover. In fact, Nishikori ended up winning the last four games of the match to steal the second set and clinch victory. Japan's top player awaits either Xavier Malisse or Donald Young on Thursday.
(WC) James Blake d. Florian Mayer 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Blake battled through a back-and-forth affair that lasted only one hour and 19 minutes despite going to three sets. The 33-year-old American led 3-0 in the first only to lose eight of the next nine games. That stretch saw Mayer steal the opener and lead by a break at 2-0 in the second.
At that point, however, Blake found that level that had carried him through the the first three games. The world No. 109 especially picked up his serve and he finished with 10 aces and zero double-faults. Mayer, who is now a disappointing 3-6 for the season, lost his way and donated serve twice in the decider as his opponent constantly abused his second deliveries. Next up for Blake is either San Jose champ Milos Raonic or fellow wild card Jack Sock.
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