Tennis: Nishikori marches on at French Open

Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the last 16 of the French Open in 75 years on Saturday when he defeated Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-1 in a third round match.

Emulating the feat of Fumiteru Nakano in 1938, 13th seeded Nishikori will next attempt to match his march into the 2012 Australian Open quarter-finals, but he will likely have to get past seven-time champion Rafael Nadal to do so.

The Florida-based Asian star broke Paire twice in the first set, while dropping his own serve once, but he then quickly found himself a break down in the second against the Frenchman who has enjoyed a strong claycourt season.

With both men struggling to hold serve, Nishikori battled back to 2-2 and there was a further exchange of breaks to get to 4-4.

Paire was left furious when he was hit with a penalty point for coaching at set point up on the Nishikori serve at 5-4, but he drew level in the match by easily taking the ensuing tie-break.

But it was Nishikori who looked the stronger as they got deep into the third set, with Paire struggling to stay the pace.

The Japanese player took that 6-4 and he raced away with the fourth against a visibly tiring Paire to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the third time at the age of 23.

Nadal will be next up for Nishikori should the defending champion defeat Italy's Fabio Fognini in a third round tie scheduled for later in the day and he has failed to beat the Spaniard in their four contests to date.