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Tennis News • All Eyes This Week On Nishikori, Playing In Tokyo • Fighting For Nitto ATP Finals Spot

Kei Nishikori of Japan hits a return to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their semi-final match on the twelfth day of the US Open Tennis Championships the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 07 September 2018. The US Open runs from 27 August through 09 September.  EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE



By Ricky Dimon


With as many as 500 points available this week and 1000 at the upcoming Shanghai Masters, the stretch run to the Nitto ATP Finals is officially underway. Kei Nishikori, who is playing at home in the Japan Open, perhaps stands as the player with the most to gain. Nishikori is currently the second alternate at No. 10 in the race to London with 2,565 points, but he is really in better position than No. 9 John Isner because Isner is skipping the Asian swing. ( New Daddy )


Japan’s top player would pass Isner with a title this week and he could move to within 500 points of Kevin Anderson, who currently occupies the eighth and final spot. Nishikori’s bid got off to a fine start on Monday, when he defeated compatriot Yuichi Sugita 6-4, 6-1.


“It’s never easy playing a friend, especially in Japan,” the third seed commented. “I think we both don’t want to play each other, but I think I handled it well. I felt a little pressure in the beginning, but I started feeling better in the second set. Overall I was happy with my tennis today. First set I was maybe tight and I was missing a little too early. But in the second set I started getting the rhythm back and started playing better. So I’m happy with my tennis, especially in the second set.”


Next up for Nishikori in round two is Benoit Paire, who ousted Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 7-6(1).


“He’s a very talented player,” the 28-year-old said of Paire. “Great backhand, one of the best backhands on the tour and a good serve. It’s never easy playing Benoit, so it’s going to be a tough one.”


At the China Open, meanwhile, first-round action continues with a pair of intriguing showdowns: Grigor Dimitrov vs. Ryan Harrison and Fernando Verdasco vs. Gael Monfils.


The head-to-head series between Dimitrov and Harrison stands at 4-1 in favor of the Bulgarian, who has taken two of their three previous hard-court contests. Each of their last two hard-court meetings has gone with distance, with Harrison earning a 7-5, 4-6, 6-0 victory at the 2015 Acapulco tournament before Dimitrov prevailed 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) last season at the Shanghai Masters. Verdasco trails his head-to-head series against Monfils 3-1, but he won their most recent encounter 6-3, 7-5 early last season in Dubai.


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @TennGrand.

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