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Tennis: Injured Nishikori pulls out of Rome

Beaten-down 10th seed Kei Nishikori withdrew as expected from the Rome Masters on Monday with the lower back complaint which plagued him in his weekend Madrid final loss to Rafael Nadal.

ROME: Beaten-down 10th seed Kei Nishikori withdrew as expected from the Rome Masters on Monday with the lower back complaint which plagued him in his weekend Madrid final loss to Rafael Nadal.

Nishikori, the first player from Japan to break into the ATP top 10 as a result of a strong clay season, had been expected to withdraw after being unable to finish the Spanish final against Nadal, who took the trophy 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 on retirement.

Nishikori now has a fortnight to be ready for the French Open after winning a clay title last month in Barcelona and playing the match of his life against Nadal.

It was obvious that Nishikori would not be playing this week, with Roland Garros starting on May 25.

The 24-year-old is looking ahead with confidence to Paris after his 2014 clay breakthrough.

"It's going to be very exciting at the French because I've never felt like this on clay. I'm very confident of whatever I hit," he said.

"I can hit from either side, so it's very good feeling I have on clay right now.

"I've been playing better tennis from last year. I'm more offensive, aggressive, playing from both sides, and playing really confident right now."

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