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Kei Nishikori Charges Toward Tennis ATP Finals In London

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/JOHN G. MABANGLO



By Ricky Dimon


A third career title at the Rakuten Japan Open would push Kei Nishikori to No. 9 in the race to London–good for the first alternate spot. Nishikori is playing like he wants that to happen, as he won his third consecutive straight-set match by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-3 on Friday.


The two-time Tokyo champion struck six aces without double-faulting and and won 85 percent of his first-serve points while advancing to the semifinals after one hour and 22 minutes.


“I was very happy today,” Nishikori assured. “This week, it’s been great, everything. My serve, return, strokes–I’m feeling pretty confident this week…. I think it was one of the best service matches I’ve had the past couple of months. I’m very happy with my serve. I had many free points, many aces and only a few games I struggled today, so I was serving really well. That’s why I was able to be aggressive on my return games.”


Nishikori, a three-time participant at the Nitto ATP Finals, would pass John Isner with a title this week and would put himself within 505 points of No. 8 Dominic Thiem and within 520 of No. 7 Kevin Anderson. Anderson lost to Richard Gasquet 7-6(6), 7-6(4) during quarterfinal action on Friday in Tokyo.


“It was a great match; I played well,” Gasquet commented. “It was really intense, every single point. I played my best level. You need to play very good when you are facing Kevin. I played two incredible tiebreaks–that’s why I think I won the match. I’m very happy with the way I played.”


Gasquet leads the head-to-head series with Nishikori 7-2, but Japan’s top player has won two of their last three encounters.


“He’s one of the best players in the world–no doubt about it,” Gasquet said of Nishikori. “I know he’s playing great. I have nothing to lose. It will be a great match for me. I’ll have to play at my best level.”


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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