Nishikori attributed his victory to his new coach Brad Gilbert.

Marin Cilic’s preparations for the Australian Open suffered a setback on Monday when he was knocked out of the Chennai Open in the first round by Kei Nishikori. The Croatian, who came into this week’s tournament as the two-time defending champion, lost 4-6 7-6 (7-0) 6-2 to his Japanese opponent who, at 98th in the world, is ranked 84 places lower. Cilic, who was seeded second this week, broke Nishikori in the fifth game to take the opening set but the latter then turned the match on its head. Nishikori, who also defeated Cilic at last year’s US Open, fought back in a dramatic second set in which he saved three break points in the 11th game. The 21-year-old won the tiebreak without dropping a point and then broke Cilic in the first game of the third set to take an early grip on the decider. He served out for the match after breaking again in the seventh game. “I’m a little bit disappointed the way I have started the year. I wouldn’t say I played too bad … I didn’t have luck at crucial moments, the key points he played better than me,” Cilic said. “The first two sets were very close. (My) losing the second set, he took the momentum from me,” he added. “The momentum he got, the way he played after that, I could not come back.” The Florida-based Nishikori attributed his fightback to changes he has made to his game under the auspices of new coach Brad Gilbert.

“I was nervous, first match for me … new coach, new trainer. (But) it was a good match today,” he said. He will be joined in the second round by America’s Robert Kendrick, who was a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 winner over Germany’s Denis Gremelmayr. Bjorn Phau was a 6-2 6-2 winner over Italy’s Simone Bolelli, while Croatia’s Ivan Dodig defeated Marcos Daniel by the same scoreline. Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic is also through after a 6-3 6-4 win over Argentina’s Eduardo Schwank, and France’s Stephane Robert secured a 6-4 6-4 success against Andreas Haider-Maurer.


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