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Tennis: Kei Nishikori defeated by Zverev in Italian Open 3rd round

Kei Nishikori plays against Alexander Zverev in the men's singles third round at the Italian Open in Rome on May 13, 2021. (Kyodo)

LONDON (Kyodo) -- Japan's Kei Nishikori squandered an early lead and went down in three sets to Germany's Alexander Zverev in the men's singles third round at the Italian Open on Thursday.

    World No. 6 and sixth seed Zverev dug himself out of a hole to finish off the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and set up a clash with third-ranked Rafael Nadal in the French Open tune-up event played in the Foro Italico stadium in Rome.

    "He was taking more chances towards the end and to me it felt like he was making all his shots," the world No. 45-ranked Nishikori said.

    "I think I lost today because I couldn't keep my focus," he added.

    Nishikori built a 4-1 lead in the final set but watched his chances of advancing to the quarterfinals of the ATP Masters 1000 event slip away as he lost five straight games on the red clay.

    It was the second straight tournament that Nishikori has been knocked out by the German. At the Masters 1000 event in Madrid earlier in May, Zverev beat the Japanese in straight sets in the round of 32 and went on to claim the title, his second of the year.

    In the men's doubles, the Japan-South African team of Ben McLachlan and Raven Klaasen were eliminated in the second round with a 6-3, 6-2 loss to American Rajeev Ram and Britain's Joe Salisbury.

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