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Flying start for Kei Nishikori in Japan Open

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Kei Nishikori of Japan hits to Novak Djokovic of Serbia in a men's semi-final match on day twelve of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Japanese tennis star Kei Nishikori began his quest for a third Japan Open title by a thrashing 6-4, 6-1 victory against his compatriot Yuichi Sugita on Monday. He now goes through to the last 16.


"I hoped I wouldn't have to play a Japanese player," said Nishikori, who last faced Sugita when they were juniors.

Nishikori, seeded at No 3 in the Tokyo main draw, may have failed to hit the heights that took him to the US Open semi-finals last month but he was still able to complete a one-sided victory over his Japanese Davis Cup teammate with a fizzing backhand down the line after 81 minutes.

"It's a relief to win. It took me a while to get into it," added the world number 12, who won the last of his 11 career titles in Memphis two years ago.

"I made a few too many mistakes at the start. But I tweaked what I needed to and enjoyed the second set a bit more."

Earlier, three-time Tokyo finalist Milos Raonic crushed last year's runner-up Adrian Mannarino, the sixth seed taking a little over an hour to beat the Frenchman 6-3, 6-4.

The big-hitting Canadian, who has slipped from number three in the world to his current ranking of 20th after a poor run of form, fired 17 aces in a dominant display.

Elsewhere, France's Benoit Paire beat Chile's Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) while Japanese qualifier Yosuke Watanuki upset Dutchman Robin Haase 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 6-1.

World number six Marin Cilic heads the field at the Tokyo tournament, whose list of previous winners include Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Ken Rosewall.

As for Nishikori, he now goes through to the last 16.

"Hopefully I can go deep into the tournament."

The Japanese star is eager to make a comeback in Tokyo after missing the tournament last year to treat a wrist injury.

"Of course, the aim is to try to win it." So far, so good.