Nishikori advances after tough battle in Australian Open

Kei NishikoriMelbourne: Japanese tennis star Kei Nishikori showed his fighting prowess to start the Australian Open with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2 win against Russian Andrey Kuznetsov here on Monday.

The fifth seed survived a gruelling three hours and 34 minutes.

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"I didn't quite play great tennis in the beginning, but especially in the fifth set, I think I was really focused and played good tennis," said Nishikori after the match, as quoted by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

"I'll try not to play a long match like this again. But the fifth set was pretty good, so I think I'm in good shape for the next round."

Nishikori led the fourth-set tie-break 5-2 before Kuznetsov stormed back, winning six of the final seven points to force a fifth set.

But Nishikori came through again under pressure.

In the fifth set, Nishikori broke the 25-year-old right-hander to lead 3-1 and finished the match with another break.

"It wasn't easy," he observed.

The 27-year-old has reached the quarter-finals here at Melbourne Park three times -- in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

In the second round, he'll meet Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.