Here's a review of the final with some nice photos.
Challenge met: Nishikori rolls over Sweeting to title
Posted: May 10, 2010 - 12:18am
By Donald Heath
After the fourth game of his title match at the Tail USTA Savannah Challenger on Sunday, Kei Nishikori had some revisions for his game plan: Get to every ball and make every shot.
The 20-year-old Japanese native came close to meeting his goals.
He won 11 of the final 12 games and surprisingly had few problems with fourth-seeded Ryan Sweeting of Florida, 6-4, 6-0, at The Landings' Franklin Creek Tennis Center.
Nishikori, once ranked 56th in the world before missing most of 2009 with a right elbow injury, appeared to be back at full strength in just his fourth tournament since his September surgery. He earned $7,200 and 80 ranking points in the Association of Tennis Professionals. Ranking points help players qualify for bigger tournaments.
"I was injured for a long time, so this gives me confidence," Nishikori said.
Nishikori lost only one set in five victories during the week. He lost only nine games while beating his final three foes in straight sets.
Sweeting lasted just 80 minutes against an opponent who spent 95 percent of his time behind the baseline.
"He served well. He was hitting his forehand well. ... He was too much for me today," said Sweeting, making no excuses.
Sweeting, who earned $4,240, entered the day on a roll. A week ago, he completed a three-match sweep at Boca Raton to qualify for the main draw at the French Open.
He won his first four matches in Savannah. He broke Nishikori in the first game of the first set, won the fourth game at love and led 3-1.
"I thought I played about the same all day," Sweeting said. "(Nishikori) stepped up his game."
A 5-foot-10, 150 pounds, Nishikori may not immediately impress you. He stays behind the baseline and sprays forehands all over the court.
But he hits the forehand with pace and consistently within inches of the opponent's baseline. He's adept with slices and backhands as well.
And his drop shot from the baseline is akin to a good changeup from a fastball pitcher.
After falling behind 3-1, Nishikori won 24 of the next 33 points. Twice, he finished games with a perfectly placed drop shot from the baseline.
"I was trying to grind more," Nishikori said. "Trying not to miss and get to every ball. (Sweeting) had a good serve, but I had a good return so that helped me."
It's how Nishikori played in 2008, when as an 18-year-old he became the first Japanese male to win an ATP event by beating James Blake in the title match at Delray Beach.
Later in the year, Nishikori advanced to the fourth round of the U.S. Open - the farthest a Japanese male had advanced at the U.S. Open in 71 years.
Sweeting won just seven points during Nishikori's final six service games.
"I'd say he's back to where he was (in the world rankings)," Sweeting said.