Japan suffer triple blow at French Open

Fourth seed Tomas Berdych has shown no mercy to Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round of the French Open, defeating the teenager 6-0 7-5 6-3 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Nishioka was one of three Japanese men to lose, leaving only fifth seed Kei Nishikori still involved in the men’s singles.

The left-handed Nishioka, who retired ill in the first round of last year’s US Open in his only previous major appearance, did however recover from a disastrous start to put up a spirited fight against the Czech star.

Berdych required less than half an hour to win the opening set but Nishioka held his serve at the start of the second and even had a break point opportunity in the following game.

Berdych, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2010, recovered to hold his serve and eventually claimed the set after 47 minutes, Nishioka’s fighting performance ultimately proving to be in vain.

Nishioka did not give up though, saving three break points at the beginning of the third set and coming back to win the game with a delightful lob from the baseline with his opponent stranded at the net.

But Berdych’s class told in the end as he converted the first of two match points in the ninth game of the set.

“There are still a lot of places to improve which is good. It is always good to have the first one down and now I’ll just keep focusing on my next opponent,” Berdych, who will face veteran compatriot Radek Stepanek in the next round, said on-court at the end of the match.

Nishioka, meanwhile, admitted the occasion got the better of him in the early exchanges and accepted Berdych just didn’t give him any chances to come back into the match.

“The first set I was very nervous, so that’s why it’s pretty quick, the set. But after first set I was a little bit looser,” Nishioka, who moved to Florida to train when just 14, said in hesitant English.

“I had a couple chances, but he didn’t give me easy points. I feel that I had chances, so, I mean, maybe if I play more the top-10 players, maybe I can get a set or I can play more close against (them).”

Meanwhile, it was a chastening day on Court Two for Nishioka’s compatriot Tatsuma Ito, who was comfortably beaten in straight sets by the 28th seed Fabio Fognini.

Making his first appearance at Roland Garros since losing to Andy Murray three years ago, the 27-year-old Ito was wiped out 6-3 6-2 6-2 in just one hour, 33 minutes by the Italian.

Fognini, who beat Rafael Nadal on the way to the final on clay in Rio de Janeiro this season, will now face either Portuguese qualifier Gastao Elias or Benoit Paire of France in the second round.

Qualifier Taro Daniel, ranked 168th in the world, fared no better as he bowed out in straight sets to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.

Daniel, who was born in New York and trains in Spain, is still looking for a first win at a grand slam after being outclassed 6-3 6-4 6-2 by the 32nd seed.

This is the first time in 42 years that as many as five Japanese players have featured in the main singles draw at a major, but only Nishikori has made it past the first round after he got the better of France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in straight sets on Sunday.

The other Japanese hope, Go Soeda, was defeated 6-1 6-0 6-2 by German 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in his first-round match.

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