10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Tennis News • Race Is On Between Isner And Nishikori For No. 9 Spot In Race To London Finals

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


Eight is generally the magic number when it comes to the Nitto ATP Finals. This time around, though, nine may be just as nice.


With Juan Martin Del Potro almost certain to withdraw from London and Rafael Nadal’s status also questionable, whoever finishes No. 9 in the race will likely get in and even No. 10 has a chance. Thus the ongoing battle between John Isner (currently ninth) and Kei Nishikori (currently 10th) is massively important. Both players are in action this week at the 500-point event in Vienna.


Ricky preview their first-round matches at the Erste Bank Open and makes his predictions:


(LL) Cameron Norrie vs. (4) John Isner

Isner and Norrie will be squaring off for the second time in their careers on Tuesday. Their only previous meeting came this spring on the red clay of Lyon, where Norrie scored a 7-6(1), 6-4 upset. Although Isner is no slouch on clay, he would obviously much rather contest this one on a faster surface such as this indoor hard. The ninth-ranked American skipped the Asian swing following the birth of his first child, but he returned in Stockholm and reached the semis (lost to eventual runner-up Ernests Gulbis in three sets).


Norrie is fortunate just to still be around in Vienna, as he fell in qualifying to Pierre-Hugues Herbert via a 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 decision before getting a lucky-loser spot in the main draw when Richard Gasquet withdrew. The 85th-ranked Brit has earned 19 of his 21 career ATP-level match wins this season, but he has struggled since advancing to the Shenzhen quarters last month. Norrie will be at the mercy of Isner’s serve, which will likely be the difference-maker in two tight sets.

Pick: Isner in 2


Frances Tiafoe vs. (5) Kei Nishikori

With two weeks left before the Nitto ATP Finals field is determined, Nishikori trails Isner by only 20 points in the race for what could be an all-important ninth spot. Nishikori and Isner have spent the last two events passing each other back and forth, and now it is Japan’s top play who hopes to regain his place at No. 9 during. He is coming off an impressive Asian swing, with a runner-up finish in Tokyo and quarterfinal showing in Shanghai. Dating back to the U.S. Open, Nishikori has reached at least the quarterfinals of four straight events.


Up first for the world No. 11 on Tuesday is Tiafoe, whom he has never faced. The 20-year-old American is a strong 26-22 for what has been a breakout 2018 campaign and up to No. 45 in the world, but he appears to be wearing out down the stretch with a 2-8 record in his last 10 matches. Among his close losses are a five-setter against Borna Coric in a decisive Davis Cup rubber between Croatia and the United States and a three-setter against Kevin Anderson at the Japan Open. Given that Nishikori is one of the best final-set players on tour, Tiafoe likely has to get this done in straights–and that is unlikely against an in-form Nishikori.

Pick: Nishikori in 3

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *