Top seed Kei Nishikori fell to a shock second round defeat and Roger Federer came through his second three-set battle this week to record his 50th win in Dubai and reach his 11th quarter-final.
In other matches, fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated qualifier Egor Gerasimov 6-3 6-1, qualifier Ricardas Berankis defeated Denis Kudla 6-4 6-1, Gael Monfils beat wild card Marcos Baghdatis 6-3 6-2 and Marton Fucsovics defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-2.
Nishikori, the world No. 6, was defeated 7-5 5-7 6-2 by Hubert Hurkacz, who until last week in Marseille had not won a match on the ATP Tour this season, while Federer emerged from a close battle with 2017 runner-up Fernando Verdasco to win 6-3 3-6 6-3
Nishikori appeared to be progressing comfortably, not conceding a point in his first four service games, but then after breaking Hurkacz to lead 5-4 he was broken in his next two, giving up the second at love to lose the first set.
In the second set, Nishikori quickly built a 4-0 lead and again appeared to be on track for an expected victory, but he struggled again to close out the set, leading 5-1 before eventually closing it out on his sixth set point. The final set saw Hurkacz break twice to claim his unlikely victory.
“Well, he played good, I think. I didn’t play perfect today, but I think he was playing good serves. Yeah, better than I thought,” said Nishikori. “I mean, with this wind and this surface, not easy. I mean, of course, I didn’t serve well when I wanted to. I mean, it happens. With these conditions, it’s never easy. I think he really played well in the important games.”
Just one break in each set decided the outcome of second seed Federer’s match with Verdasco. Federer broke to lead 3-1 in the first, failed to win a break point in the opening game of the second and then dropped his own serve to fall behind 2-0, and in the third he gained a vital break to lead 5-3 and served out the match to love.
“These best-of-three set matches, you’re not always in control of everything because, like you saw at the end, a good five minutes of the opponent or a good five minutes of you can decide the outcome of the match. You’re definitely living on the edge at some point in the match. This is how it is,” said Federer.
“I’m happy I actually stayed calm throughout the game. I felt like I was having a good feeling out there. Even though I wasn’t playing my best, I still felt like it was going to fall my way when it really mattered. I think that confidence is kind of important in sports or in tennis. I’m happy I had it today. I was right. I played good at the end. I had the serve when I needed it, had some good shots, a good point on breakpoint when I needed it. That was nice to win it that way.”
Roberto Bautista Agut’s defence of his title was ended by Nikoloz Basilashvili, who won 6-7 6-4 6-3, but sixth seed Borna Coric survived a strong challenge from former two-time finalist Tomas Berdych, winning 1-6 6-1 7-6.
In other matches fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated qualifier Egor Gerasimov 6-3 6-1, qualifier Ricardas Berankis defeated Denis Kudla 6-4 6-1, Gael Monfils beat wild card Marcos Baghdatis 6-3 6-2 and Marton Fucsovics defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-2.
“We congratulate Hubert Hurkacz on his victory and it will be very interesting to see if he can make further progress this week,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “We wish Kei Nishikori well for the rest of the season and look forward to welcoming him back to Dubai in the future.”
“On a day of further upsets, Roger Federer kept us all on the edge of our seats as Fernando Verdasco challenged him all the way to the end of a thrilling battle ” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “He survived, but competition has been so strong in the first two rounds that only three seeds have advanced to the quarter-finals.”