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Ricky Reviews Basel ATP Men’s Tennis Nishikori, Isner Continue London Quest, Federer Wins His Opener

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


Needing to make a run at the Erste Bank Open in order to gain ground in the race to the Nitto ATP Finals, Kei Nishikori opened with a 7-6(3), 5-7, 7-2 victory over Frances Tiafoe during first-round action on Tuesday afternoon. Tiafoe fired 10 aces without double-faulting a single time, but Nishikori still managed to prevail after two hours and eight minutes.


Japan’s top player currently stands at No. 10 in the race to London, but ninth if either Juan Martin Del Potro or Rafael Nadal withdraws. Because he has already achieved success at the maximum number of 500-point tournaments this season, Nishikori can only add points to his total if he reaches the semifinals.


His chief London rival at present is John Isner, who answered Nishikori’s win with a three-set triumph of his own. The 6’10” American, who regained the No. 9 spot by advancing to last week’s Stockholm semifinals, saved two match points before outlasting Cameron Norrie 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-6(7).


Isner adds 45 points to his total and now leads Nishikori by 45 points.


At the Swiss Indoors Basel, meanwhile, Roger Federer kicked off his campaign by scraping past Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Federer led by a set and a break before temporarily taking his foot off the gas and then restoring order to a roller-coaster ride that lasted two hours and nine minutes.


The eight-time Basel champion broke Krajinovic six times to make up for a dreadful service performance of his own, complete with six double-faults and a first-serve percentage of 47.


“It was a bit more of a hard-fought victory, but they feel good, too, especially knowing that I have the day off tomorrow,” Federer explained. “So it’s no problem having played three sets today.


“I didn’t serve very well. I think I was misfiring the corners; I was not hitting the lines enough. Clearly you make your life more difficult, but still I was up 6-2, 3-1, break points, so things could have ended very quickly today even though I didn’t have the best serve percentage stats. But maybe that’s exactly what caught up to me eventually. It’s just getting used to [the conditions]. This is where the first rounds can be tricky.”


The 37-year-old probably wanted a shot at John Millman after the underdog Aussie stunned him in round four of this summer’s U.S. Open, but that will not be the case. Instead, Federer will run into Jan-Lennard Struff on Thursday. Struff defeated Millman 7-6(3), 6-2.


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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