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With two huge names clashing so early in the tournament, it should come as no surprise that this is our Tennis Channel Plus Match of the Day.
Dimitrov comes into this match with a little desperation, as he has struggled to find his way after entering 2018 with big expectations. The 2017 ATP Finals champion lost his only match at the Madrid Open in the round of 32, falling to Milos Raonic, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. That defeat came immediately after a disappointing straight-set loss to Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open. It's clear that Dimitrov's worst surface is clay, which is what makes Wednesday such a tough matchup for him.
Match point from Nishikori's impressive win over Marin Cilic in Monte Carlo:
Nishikori is a player that can perform at a high level on any surface, but he has definitely put on a great display of tennis at the start of this year's clay-court season. The 28-year-old made it all the way to the finals of the Monte Carlo Masters, losing only to Rafael Nadal—whose clay-court prowess is well-documented.
The primary issue for Nishikori, as always, is his health. He was forced to retire from his opening match of the Barcelona Open with a wrist injury, and he then lost to Novak Djokovic, 7-5, 6-4, in his first match in Madrid. He was seen wincing a few times during that match, but he has had a full week to recover for this event.
The edge in this match-up has historically gone to Nishikori, who is 3-1 in four career meetings with Dimitrov. The Bulgarian was the winner of the most recent meeting, in Brisbane back in 2017, in three sets. The world No. 4 has also been the more impressive player over the past two seasons, but a healthy Nishikori likely would have done a lot of damage during that span as well. And with this being his preferred surface, Nishikori is not going to be intimidated.
ATP Rome (5/13 - 5/20)
-Tennis Channel Plus features five courts of live action from the Internazionali BNL d'Italia beginning Sunday, May 13 at 5:00 am ET!