WHAT HAPPENED: No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori was rolling comfortably through the first two sets when Pablo Andujar unexpectedly and suddenly retired, 6-4, 6-1, on Thursday, sending the rising 24-year-old Japanese star quickly into the US Open third round for the fourth time in his career.
There were no signs of ailment from the 28-year-old Spaniard for most of the match in Grandstand, until he called for the trainer trailing 1-3 in the second set. Up until then, the clay-court specialist had mixed up his baseline game with some effective serve-and-volley play to make for a tight and exciting opening set. Nishikori got the only service break of the set at 5-4.
While Andujar looked physically fine in returning to the court after calling the trainer, his level of play dropped off considerably and Nishikori reeled off the last three games of the second set. Before the players even had a chance to sit down for the changeover, Andujar shook Nishikori’s hand at the net and surrendered the match.
WHAT IT MEANS: Nishikori advanced for a chance to match his career-best fourth round appearance, which he reached on his US Open debut in 2008. He will next face either Australian Matthew Ebden or No. 23 seed Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in the third round.
QUESTION: As Nishikori enjoys his best season thus far, can he go toe to toe with the likes of big-serving No. 5 seed Milos Raonic of Canada, who sits in his quarter of the draw?