Rome — Japan’s Kei Nishikori eased into the second round of the ATP Italian Open in Rome on Monday as Italy’s Roberta Vinci bowed out of her final WTA tournament with a first-round defeat to a qualifier.
Former US Open finalist Vinci fell 2-6 6-0 6-3 to Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic on the red clay of the Foro Italico.
The 35-year-old reached the US Open final in 2010 and won 10 singles titles in her career spanning nearly two decades.
Novak Djokovic got off to a winning start in his bid for a fifth Italian Open title beating Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1 6-3. The 11th-seeded Serb has reached eight of the last 10 finals in Rome and won four.
Nishikori — who had lost his two matches on clay in Spain in the previous two weeks — needed 1hr 48min to hand Spaniard Feliciano Lopez his sixth defeat in seven trips to the Italian capital 7-6 (7/5) 6-4.
"It wasn’t an easy match. It was windy so conditions were tough for both of us," said 24th-ranked Nishikori, who hit 18 winners to counter the seven aces fired down by Lopez.
Nishikori arrived in Rome after losing his two matches on clay in Spain — retiring in Barcelona due to a wrist injury before losing his opening round in Madrid to Djokovic.
"He used a lot of slice and great serves but I think I handled his slice well," continued Nishikori, who won his last title in Memphis in February 2016.
"The first set could have gone both ways, luckily I got it and after that I was more confident."
Nishikori took a one-set lead after a tiebreak. The pair exchanged serves in the second set before 2016 semifinalist Nishikori broke and served out to love to book into the second round against third seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
Robin Haase of the Netherlands needed three sets to beat Russian Daniil Medvedev 3-6 6-4 6-1 with Davis Goffin of Belgium seeing off Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-1 6-2.
In the women’s event, Japan’s Naomi Osaka beat former world No1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-0 6-3 to set up a meeting with top seed Simona Halep of Romania.