Former world no. 1 British Andy Murray has withdrawn from the French Open in order to ramp up his preparations for the grass-court season in the build-up to Wimbledon, which starts on July 3.
Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic were stretched to the limit in their respective first-round matches at the Australian Open on Monday, with both the Japanese and Croatian having to go the distance in energy-sapping conditions in Melbourne.
Cilic, who won the US Open in 2014, was in trouble early on against Jerzy Janowicz but managed to recover to win 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in a marathon five-setter.
Usually towering over most opponents on the tour, Cilic was dwarfed by the gigantic Pole, who stands at in impressive six feet eight inches and was down two sets to love before he knew what was happening. He got his rhythm back in the next two sets, levelling the match at 2-2 before winning the decider routinely 6-3.
Earlier in the day, the 5th-seeded Nishikori had plenty of support against Russian Andrey Kuznetsov but had a tough time before eventually prevailing 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2 at the Hisense Arena.
The 25-year-old Russian started the game on the front foot, attacking his shorter opponent and took the first set without much fuss. The crowd was roaring Nishikori’s name and plenty of Japanese mini flags were being waved about but the battle on the court seemed to be going Kuznetsov’s way, at least initially.
Nishikori dug deep and won the next two sets in quick time before a cracker of a fourth set which went to a tie-break, with the Russian prevailing 8-6 in the end to set up a tense final set.
It wasn't to be the Russian’s day as the tireless Nishikori simply outlasted him 6-2 in the deciding set to ensure his progression into the next round. He will now face Jeremy Chardy, who got past Nicolas Almagro after the Spaniard retired in the first set itself.
Meanwhile, top seed Andy Murray beat Illya Marchenko 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 to book his progression into the second round. Murray began sluggishly, even allowing himself to be broken once, but recovered well and crucially, didn't drop a set in what was an ultimately routine first-round match.
The big upset of the day was in the Women's draw, with fourth seed Simona Halep being swept aside by Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-1. The fact that the American won in straight sets makes the result even more shocking and before Day 1 finishes, one can expect a couple to see a few more upsets on the cards.