What was turning out to be an intriguing contest, descended into ignominy, thanks to an umpiring error and a bout of temper from Alejando Falla. The Colombian, already having to deal with a battling Kei Nishikori, who had clawed his way from a set and 0-3 down to level the match, was rewarded a point less.
In the first game of the third set, instead of calling 15-15, the umpire called 30-0. Neither of the players caught on the mistake, Falla only realising it with the game score on deuce. An argument with the umpire over the call proved useless; the Colombian sent a ball out of the stadium, and was given a warning for ball abuse.
Falla went on to lose the game after Nishikori hit a return winner, and then gave a comprehensive demonstration of how to break a tennis racquet out of shape. Point penalty.
He started his second service game, 0-2 down in the set and thoroughly done in the head, with a double fault and not willing to put in any more effort. At one time during the game break, it looked like Falla was about to quit.
But after a brief exchange with his coach, he walked back to his seat. The drama seemed to unsettle the Japanese youngster. Nishikori put in a poor service game, accentuated by three double faults, to help Falla get on the board in the decider.
The match picked up some steam, with Falla at least going for the obvious balls, and Nishikori got the crowd going with a between the legs shot.
The episode not only affected the match adversely, but also took the sheen off the massive effort that Nishikori had put in to win it 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and eight minutes.
For the second match in a row, he had fought back from a set deficit against higher ranked players to come out the winner. Born in Japan, trained in America, Nishikori plays the hard-boiled European game.
He will meet sixth seed Janko Tipsarevic, who defeated Russian qualifier Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-2, 7-6 (3) earlier on Thursday, in the quarterfinals.
“Nishikori is a baseline player, so I expect a lot of rallies,” was Tipsarevic’s assessment of his young opponent. “He missed lot of tournaments last year because of injury but I am sure he will be a strong contender this season.”
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