Kei Nishikori says he needs to build "a lot" of confidence after defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 7-6(3) to reach the second round of the Rome Masters on Monday.
The 30-year-old had been struggling with an elbow injury in 2019 and had surgery on it last October, forcing him to miss this year's Australian Open and US Open, and also tested positive for coronavirus in August. Nishikori played at Kitzbuhel in Austria last week, but the former world No 4 lost his opening match on clay.
But as he prepares to make his first Grand Slam appearance of 2020 at the delayed French Open, which gets underway on September 27, the Japanese is pleased with the progress he is making after winning his Rome opener.
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"Very happy to win," he said on court post-match.
"I think winning is most important for now. I need to get a lot of confidence. It's been a long time since the US Open last year.
"Happy to go through. It wasn't maybe perfect yet, but hopefully one by one I'll get better."
He added: "I tried to be aggressive when I could. He hits a lot of topspin balls, so it's not easy. But I tried to have good defence and good offence."
Nishikori takes on 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti in the second round, who produced a stunning 6-0, 7-6(2) victory over three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday night.
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