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By Tennis Now | Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Grigor Dimitrov was eight points from a birthday trip to the Rome round of 16.

A defiant Kei Nishikori played party crasher.

Watch: Shot Clock, Towel Rack Coming To ATP

Roused by what he felt was an incorrect over-rule, Nishikori rallied for a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, victory spoiling Dimitrov's 27th birthday with a committed comeback.

Four of the top eight seeds fell from the field today.

The third-seeded Dimitrov bowed after home favorite Fabio Fognini toppled sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, Albert Ramos-Vinolas edged eighth-seeded John Isner, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) and Aljaz Bedene held a 6-4 lead when seventh-seeded South African Kevin Anderson retired.

No. 4-seeded Marin Cilic fought back from a set down to slip past American Ryan Harrison, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (1), in a match that began yesterday before rain suspended play. Cilic faced just one break point in the match and permitted only nine points on his second serve (75 percent) defeating Harrison for the seventh time in eight meetings.

Aiming for a trip to his third Rome quarterfinal, the Australian Open finalist will take on either Diego Schwartzman or Benoit Paire next. 

Novak Djokovic drilled Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-4, 6-2.

The four-time Rome champion will play left-hander Ramos-Vinolas, who survived 30 aces from Isner in a two hour, 52-minute marathon.

The 18th-ranked Djokovic, who is defending 600 ranking points for his run to the 2017 Rome final, is 5-0 lifetime vs. Ramos-Vinolas, sweeping all 13 sets they've played.

Nishikori converted five of 14 break-point opportunities and rattled the Bulgarian's backhand defeating Dimitrov for the fourth time in five meetings.

The Monte-Carlo finalist will face Philipp Kohlschreiber for a quarterfinal spot. The Munich runner-up swept American Jack Sock, 6-4, 6-3, on Tuesday.

It's the second straight opening exit from a Masters even for Dimitrov, who squandered a one-set lead losing his Madrid opener to Milos Raonic last week.

Dimitrov broke on a Nishikori netted forehand for a 3-2 lead 21 minutes into the final set.

The third-seeded Bulgarian backed up the break at 15 for 4-2.

A Dimitrov backhand initially called out would have given Nishikori double break point in the eighth game.

Chair umpire Carlos Bernardes inspected the mark and ruled the ball touched the line, a frustrated Nishikori, who rarely shows too much emotion on court, banged his racquet on the net disgusted with the overrule.

Shrugging off his disappointment, Nishikori worked over the Bulgarian's backhand then abruptly reversed direction to his forehand drawing the error to break back for 4-all.

An energized Nishikori saved a break point bolting a backhand down the line as he held in the ninth game.

Nishikori knifed volley for break point then returned to the play that worked throughout the match targeting Dimitrov's one-handed backhand. When Dimitrov netted a backhand off his back foot, Nishikori was through in two hours, 54 minutes.

The theatrical Fognini played periods of mesmerizing tennis against two-time Madrid finalist Thiem.



"It was a good match, actually, from both of us, I would say," Thiem told the media. "[It] was a very intense fight, basically from the beginning to the end. So I'm disappointed that I lost, obviously. But game-wise, I'm not really disappointed."

Winless in two prior meetings with Thiem, the 21st-ranked Italian was inspired in today's rematch and worked the Italian crowd, including wife and former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, to a fevered pitch at times.

Deploying the drop shot at times and changing direction masterfully, Fognini probed Thiem's serve in sixth game of the decider.

A tough Thiem saved five break points in a 20-point game that spanned 14 minutes holding for 3-all.

Fighting off double break point in the ensuing game a fired-up Fognini reeled off six straight points. Fognini broke for 5-3 when Thiem scattered a forehand.

Frustration boiled over as Thiem trashed his racquet into a mangled mess going down triple match point. Fognini sealed his 11th career Top 10 victory, snapping a six-match losing streak to Top 10 opposition.

It was Fognini's first Top 10 victory since he surprised Andy Murray in the 2017 Rome second round.

 

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