Injured Nishikori pulls out of Rome, Federer arrives
Madrid: Beaten-down 10th seed Kei Nishikori withdrew as expected from the Rome Masters on Monday with the lower back complaint which plagued him in his weekend Madrid final loss to Rafael Nadal.
But Roger Federer landed on a flight from Zurich as the new father of twins born last Tuesday decided to play in the Masters event which he has never won.
"Oh and btw ciao tutti, I just arrived in bella Italia! Looking forward to Rome," the Swiss tweeted after a mid-day arrival in the Italian capital.
Federer had a practice court booked and was expected to begin preparations for a second-round match against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, while Madrid champion Nadal also arrived to prepare his bid for an eighth title at the Foro Italico.
Nishikori, the first player from Japan to break into the ATP top 10 as a result of a strong clay season, had been expected to withdraw after being unable to finish the Spanish final against Nadal, who took the trophy 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 on retirement.
Nishikori now has a fortnight to be ready for the French Open after winning a clay title last month in Barcelona and playing the match of his life against Nadal.
It was obvious that Nishikori would not be playing this week, with Roland Garros starting on May 25.
The 24-year-old is looking ahead with confidence to Paris after his 2014 clay breakthrough.
"It`s going to be very exciting at the French because I`ve never felt like this on clay. I`m very confident of whatever I hit," he said.
"I can hit from either side, so it`s very good feeling I have on clay right now.
"I`ve been playing better tennis from last year. I`m more offensive, aggressive, playing from both sides, and playing really confident right now."
Notable first-round action included women`s 11th seed Ana Ivanovic beginning with a 6-1, 6-1 rout of unseeded Italian Karin Knapp.