Kei Nishikori overcomes Nicolas Almagro test

It was an early test against a former top-10 player, but Kei Nishikori was good enough to progress in Melbourne.

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Kei Nishikori overcame the challenge of Nicolas Almagro to reach the Australian Open second round with a straight-sets win on Tuesday.

The Japanese fifth seed, runner-up at the US Open last year, claimed a 6-4 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 victory in two hours seven minutes at Melbourne Park.

Almagro, once ranked ninth in the world, tested Nishikori - but his lack of match practice showed.

Nishikori was forced into long exchanges from the back of the court, but he stepped up in key moments against a player who missed most of last year due to a foot injury.

Almagro broke serve in the opening game, a tremendous backhand cross-court winner finding the line.

With his winners, however, came unforced errors - and Almagro's sixth in four games saw Nishikori break back.

Almagro saved two set points at 4-5, but he pushed a backhand wide on the third.

As he did in the first set, Almagro broke first in the second - a pair of Nishikori unforced errors followed by a fine cross-court forehand saw him go 3-2 up.

A 16-point sixth game would lead to Nishikori breaking straight back.

Almagro's frustration threatened to boil over when he fell behind a break as Nishikori took a marathon game to lead 5-3.

The breaks of serve trend continued in the next game, with Almagro hitting the baseline three times - including with a forehand winner - to get back into the set.

Nishikori had his chances before being pushed into a second-set tie-break, which he took 7-1 - five of those points coming from Almagro errors as his inconsistent display continued.

Nishikori was never likely to be challenged when two sets up, especially with Almagro making his return from injury, and he eased through after hitting 30 winners.

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