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Last year's runner-up upset at US Open

Published:Monday | August 31, 2015 | 7:19 PM


A year after his run all the way to his first Grand Slam final, Kei Nishikori's stay at the US Open lasted only a few hours.

The fourth-seeded Nishikori had two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker against 41st-ranked Benoit Paire, but the Frenchman saved both of them then took control in the fifth for a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory yesterday.

It was the first win of his career against an opponent ranked in the top five.

"When I saw the draw against Kei, I said, 'Bad luck,'" Paire recalled.

"It's not like if I play against Roger Federer," Paire said, explaining he knew he could get something going against Nishikori's serve. "Against Kei, I know I can play."

Nishikori had withdrawn from the hard-court warm-up at Cincinnati, citing a hip injury, but he said yesterday he was fine physically. Still, he looked sluggish late in the match, which lasted three hours, 14 minutes on a steamy day.

Last year at Flushing Meadows, Nishikori became the first man from Asia to reach a major final, where he lost to Marin Cilic.

The 25-year-old followed that up with more success in 2015, and came into the US Open with his first top-four seed at a Grand Slam tournament. He made it to the quarter-finals at both the Australian and French Opens this year, but withdrew from the second round at Wimbledon because of a calf problem, the latest injury in a career plagued by them.

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic needed just 71 minutes to beat 91st-ranked Joao Souza of Brazil 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

On the women's side, four of the top-10 players are already out, with seventh-seeded Ana Ivanovic, eighth-seeded Karolina Pliskova and 10th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro losing yesterday, a day after third-seeded Maria Sharapova withdrew. All were on Serena Williams' half of the draw.

Williams opened her pursuit of the first Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988, last night in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Before she even stepped on the court, not a single top-10 player stands in the way between the American and the final.