Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco scored a pair of opening victories amid a “little typhoon” to begin final Australian Openpreparations at the Kooyong Classic on Wednesday.

US Open finalist Nishikori fought past a tough Australian challenge from Jordan Thompson to post a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4) result while Verdasco beat Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

Nishikori, ranked fifth in the world, was forced to work hard in swirling conditions at Kooyong Club for just over two hours.

“It was tough for both of us — like a little typhoon out there,” said the Tokyo-born player now based in Florida. “But it was a good match for me: three sets and some good tennis.”

The eight-man warm-up event for the Australian Open starting on Monday is considered prime preparation for the first major of the season.

“Conditions made it tough to play,” added the 25-year-old Nishikori.

“It was difficult for me to be aggressive. But I played a good tie-break and I’m happy to win today.”

Verdasco also took charge of his game as he was tested by the weather.

The 33rd-ranked Spaniard collected the first set against Simon in 27 minutes and thwarted the Frenchman as Simon served to level at a set each.

Instead, he was broken to love, with Verdasco eventually winning a tie-breaker on a concluding Simon backhand error.

“This wind is tough for everyone,” said the Spaniard. “You need to be focused and hit every ball with confidence — if not it flies everywhere.

“Despite the conditions, this is perfect preparation for the Open. I like the hot conditions but you never know here.”

France’s Richard Gasquet, meanwhile, beat Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 6-2, with Gasquet finishing with 28 winners and three breaks of serve.

“I’m feeling good on the court,” he said. “What I need is matches. After being injured last year, I need to keep my fitness if I’m to return to the top 10. If I can stay fit, I have a chance.”

Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov also beat Filip Krajinovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-3.

Nishikori came to Kooyong after a semi-final last weekend in Brisbane, where he lost to Canadian Milos Raonic in three tie-break sets.

After winning the opening set thanks to a break in the first game, Nishikori’s level slipped as Australian world number 273 Thompson made his move in the second set, winning it via a break of serve in the fourth game.

The third set was halted for a short time due to a passing shower.

When the players returned Nishikori failed to serve out for victory at 5-3, the set eventually going to a tie-break after Thompson saved a match point in the 12th game.

Nishikori took his first match point in the tie-break as the Australian double-faulted. – Agence France-Presse

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