Second seed Kei Nishikori takes on 25th seed Fernando Verdasco in the third round of 2017 Miami Open in Crandon Park on Sunday.
Nishikori eased past South Africa's big-serving Kevin Anderson in straight sets (6-4, 6-3) in his tournament opener on Friday while Verdasco survived a thriller, that went on for an hour and 47 minutes, against unseeded American Ernesto Escobedo 7-6 (9), 7-5.
The Japanese star, who finished as the runner-up last season in Miami, has a relatively easier passage to the quarter-final, when compared to his rivals, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka but the test against the left-handed Verdasco might prove to be tricky for the world number four.
Notably, Nishikori has beaten Verdasco twice and lost to the latter as many times in their previous meetings but the former has won their last two clashes. After making a good start to the season by reaching the final at Brisbane, the 28-year-old was dumped out of Australian Open in the fourth round following loss to Federer.
Nishikori then suffered a shock loss to world number 67 Alexandr Dolgopolov in the title match in Buenos Aires after which he suffered defeat against Jack Sock in the quarter-final of Indian Wells. After suffering a title drought early in the season, Nishikori, who has secured his highest seeding in a Masters 1000 tournament, would want to make use of the advantage and go the distance here.
Verdasco has been inconsistent so far in the season but he bagged some good wins under his belt. After suffering a semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic in Doha, he slipped in the first round at Australian Open to the same opponent.
Verdasco has so far struggled against top-ranked players as he was ousted from Indian wells in the second round by Rafael Nadal. It will be another stiff test for the Spaniard on Friday and he will have to be at his best to challenge Nishikori.
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