Top seed Kei Nishikori plays Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the second round of the ATP 500 at Rotterdam on Thursday, February 14. This fixture will start around 7.30 pm local time (6.30 pm BST).
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Kei Nishikori v Ernests Gulbis Head to Head
The players have met twice on the ATP tour with Nishikori winning both times. Nishikori also won their only encounter at the Challenger level. Their most recent meeting was at the 2018 Wimbledon, which Nishikori won in four sets, with Gulbis pushing Nishikori to the brink for most of the first three sets.
Nishikori Looking For Routine Victory After Tricky First Round
Top seed Kei Nishikori, looking for a deep run at Rotterdam this week, had a challenging first round encounter against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Nishikori did not look at his best, lacking rhythm and struggled to put away Herbert, who has been on a run of late with a finals appearance at the ATP 250 in Montpellier last week.
Nishikori has had a very strong last nine months returning from a long injury layoff. The Japanese qualified for the ATP Tour Finals in London last year, and his 2019 has already seen some good results too. Nishikori won the ATP 250 at Brisbane and followed it up with a quarter finals appearance at the Australian Open.
The Japanese player had to withdraw with an injury during the Australian Open, but seems to have recovered by now. With a solid return of serve, and athleticism as good as any on the tour, Nishikori will look to play to his strengths in his second round encounter.
With his eyes on the title, he will look to have a shorter match than his first round, saving energy for what maybe a few days of back-to-back tennis as he progresses through the draw. Nishikori looked rusty in the first set against Herbert, but will be pleased with his return game by the decider.
Nishikori is currently ranked number seven in the ATP rankings, and will look to the Rotterdam tournament to move him closer to being in the top five in the rankings.
Lucky Loser Gulbis Hoping to Continue Rotterdam Charm
Latvian Gulbis has had a career of ups and downs and as he enters his 30s, can look back at a career that promised more than it delivered, unfortunately. With a solid performance in 2014, that saw him make the top ten ATP rankings briefly after a semi-final appearance at the French Open, beating Roger Federer en route, Gulbis has had a career plagued by injuries and indifferent form in recent times. Having dropped out of the top 500 in 2017, he has made a comeback of sorts and is back in the top 100.
Gulbis has a powerful serve and game, that has troubled many a seeded player at tournaments, including beating Alexander Zverev at Wimbledon 2018. However, his runs of good form have been intermittent and short-lived. In addition to the Wimbledon 2018 fourth round appearance, Gulbis made the finals of the ATP 250 in Stockholm, as a qualifier, beating top seeded players enroute.
A lucky loser at Rotterdam after losing to Giles Simon in qualifying, Gulbis’ strengths were in full display in a convincing first round win against Marius Copil in the first round.
Kei Nishikori v Ernests Gulbis Predictions & Tips
This is the first time they are meeting on an indoor hard court. Gulbis’ powerful serving will definitely be an advantage on the surface. Nishikori will hope his return game is at its best from the beginning to avoid playing catch up again like he did with Herbert. A powerful serve versus a solid returner should make for an exciting contest. Expect Gulbis to push Nishikori, but the Japanese should prevail in three intriguing sets.
You can watch & bet on Kei Nishikori v Ernests Gulbis on Thursday, February 14, around 7.30 pm local time (or 6.30 pm BST)