Japan’s Kei Nishikori got his first win in a year at the Italian Open on Monday with former Rome semifinalists Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic also easing into the second round of the clay-court tournament.
Nishikori needed six match points to get past Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in two hours behind closed doors at the Foro Italico for his first win since reaching the 2019 US Open third round.
“It’s been a long time since the US Open last year,” said the 30-year-old, who reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals in 2019 before undergoing elbow surgery.
“I still don’t have confidence but little by little I’m getting better.”
Nishikori will next meet either three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, or Italian qualifier Lorenzo Musetti, as he builds his fitness towards the French Open later this month.
The Japanese player skipped the US hardcourt tour, opting to warm up on clay at Kitzbuehel, Austria last week.
“It sucks missing Grand Slam, big tournaments, but this year is going to be a little bit strange anyways,” he said.