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Kei Nishikori • Kevin Anderson • ATP Tennis Showdown Again • With Race To London On The Line

Kei Nishikori of Japan returns the ball to Adrian Mannarino of France during their second round match at the Rolex Paris Masters tennis tournament in Paris, France, 31 0ctober 2018.  EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON



By Ricky Dimon


If Kei Nishikori ends up failing to snag a spot in the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, he may have Kevin Anderson to blame Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin Del Potro, and John Isner could also have a say in Nishikori’s year-end championship status, but for now it is Anderson on whom Japan’s No. 1 player is once again focused.


Anderson is 2-0 in the head-to-head series this season, with a win in the New York Open semifinals and an even bigger victory in last week’s Erste Bank Open title match. The latter result in the 6’8” South African’s favor prevented Nishikori from taking a full 500 points home from Vienna, which would have almost certainly clinched spot in London.


Just a few days later, Anderson and Nishikori will square off again during third-round action at the Rolex Paris Masters on Thursday. Nishikori rolled over Adrian Mannarino 7-5, 6-4 in his opener on Wednesday, while Anderson held off Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(3).


“(I) had to really dig deep to come through today,” said the seventh seed, who also beat Basilashvili last week–improving to 3-0 in that head-to-head series, with all three victories coming in 2018. “Fortunately for me in the third set I started having a few more looks on his serve and I picked up my game a little bit.


“Of course it’s going to be a tough match (against Nishikori),” Anderson continued. “Tennis is interesting and I guess funny in that aspect, playing each other in the finals here just a few days later–and playing Nicolas last week in Vienna, too. It’s always a tough challenge playing Kei. I’m going to have to again play great tennis; I felt I played a great match against him in the (Vienna) finals. I’m sure he’s going to be extra motivated, so I’m going to be have to be ready to go from the very first game.”


Nishikori is currently ninth in the 2018 race, but Del Potro is almost certain to withdraw. If Nadal also WDs, the world No. 11 would be a virtual lock regardless of what happens in Paris Bercy. A setback against Anderson combined with an eventual Paris semifinal performance by Isner would leave Nishikori on the outside–if either Nadal or Del Potro participates at the O2 Arena.


The bottom line is that Nishikori is likely destined for London. But a win over Anderson and subsequent deep run in Paris would take any guesswork out of the equation.


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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