Tennis

Injury blow for Nishikori

Japanese world No. 9 retires with back injury at Halle, doubtful for Wimbledon

World No. 9 Kei Nishikori's Wimbledon preparations suffered a setback yesterday when he was forced to retire injured from his Halle Open Round-of-16 match against Russian Karen Khatchanov.

The third seed needed to take a medical time-out to treat a back injury before playing on for a few points and retiring with the score at 3-2 in the first set for the Russian.

Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam to be played on grass, starts on July 3.

Khachanov will now play the winner of the match between fellow Russians Mikhail Youzhny and Andrey Rublev.

Nishikori's withdrawal followed the exit of second seed Dominic Thiem, who lost to Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3, 7-6 (9/7) in the second round yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Austrian Thiem was playing in his first tournament since reaching the French Open semi-finals earlier this month, looking to get some match practice on grass before the start of Wimbledon.

But the world No. 42 Haase grew into the match after saving two break-points in the first game, and took the opening set thanks to a break in game eight.

Thiem, who beat Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros before being thrashed by Rafael Nadal, broke his opponent when he served for the match to force a second-set tie-break.

But Haase saved three set-points in the breaker and wrapped up the win at the first time of asking to set up a last-eight tie with Richard Gasquet.

I hope to get some matches next week (in Antalya) and then get ready for Wimbledon.Austrian second seed Dominic Thiem, who suffered a shock loss to Dutchman Robin Hasse in Halle

"It was not the best start I've had. The first set was pretty average," said Thiem.

"I played good in the second set and had a lot of chances, but he played those set-points well and was playing well overall.

"I hope to get some matches next week (in Antalya) and then get ready for Wimbledon."

Home favourite Alexander Zverev cruised into the quarter-finals after brushing aside fellow German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4 in just 65 minutes.

Zverev reached his seventh quarter-final of the season, where he will take on seventh-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.

Roger Federer continued his bid for a ninth Halle title when he took on Zverev's older brother Mischa at press time.

Over at the Queen's Club in London, fourth seed Marin Cilic overpowered American teenager Stefan Kozlov 6-0, 6-4 yesterday to reach the quarter-finals of the Aegon Championships.

Croat Cilic, winner of the prestigious Wimbledon warm-up event in 2012, romped through the first set in 24 minutes but was given more of a workout in the second.

Kozlov, 19, showed some tidy grasscourt skills of his own, but never hinted at breaking the Cilic serve, which offered up only seven points to the American during the 65-minute contest.

New tournament favourite Cilic, who beat John Isner in round one, will now take aim at his third American in a row in the quarter-finals when he takes on unseeded Donald Young.

The tournament has already lost top seed and five-time champion Andy Murray, Swiss world No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic and fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while French Open champion Rafael Nadal pulled out before the start of the event. - WIRE SERVICES

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