Nishikori Back Into Delray Beach Semifinals
By Joshua Rey
Kei Nishikori is one win from returning to the Delray Beach ITC final after defeating American qualifier Ryan Sweeting 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4 in Friday’s first singles quarterfinal. The 21-year-old Japanese sensation was not broken in the match, serving as smoothly and moving as majestically as he did when he won this title three years ago.
Injuries and inconsistency have kept Nishikori from reaching another ATP World Tour final, but he’s beginning to show signs of a resurgence under his new coach, Brad Gilbert.
“I’m really happy to be in the semis tomorrow,” said Nishikori. “It’s my favorite tournament, so hopefully I can go farther.”
He and Sweeting played at a high level in the first set; the American hitting six aces while Nishikori disguised his backhand beautifully. In the seventh game, Nishikori followed a crosscourt backhand winner with an inside-out backhand drop shot winner: the same stroke hit two different ways to two different areas of the court.
Down 4-5, Sweeting made three forehand errors to provide Nishikori with a pair of set points. Nishikori blew the first with an unforced error and Sweeting saved the second in spectacular fashion. As Nishikori scrambled behind the baseline, Sweeting hit four shots that would have been winners against other players. With an inside-out forehand, overhead smash, forehand volley and then one more overhead, the 23-year-old from Fort Lauderdale finally put Nishikori away.
“He was playing great in the first set,” said Nishikori. “I think if he kept playing like that, I would have lost.”
In the tiebreaker, Sweeting found a weakness in Nishikori, looping high balls to the forehand of the world No. 66. Nishikori sprayed an ugly down-the-line forehand wide to give Sweeting a 5-4 lead. The American wrapped the set up by using another heavy crosscourt forehand to open up the court for a crosscourt backhand that Nishikori couldn’t handle.
“He was hitting deep, so I was struggling a little bit in the first set,” said Nishikori. “But [my forehand] has gotten better, I think.”
Sweeting entered the match 0-3 lifetime against Nishikori, and he was unable to maintain his momentum in the second set. Each player took a medical timeout, but Sweeting’s back ailment seemed to bother him more than Nishikori’s foot problem. After a first set that went with serve, Nishikori broke Sweeting twice to take the second set.
“He changed a little bit [in the second set],” said Nishikori. “He wasn’t moving well… and he was a little bit defensive and I was able to make more balls.”
In the third set, Sweeting’s serve abandoned him as he missed 12 consecutive first serves at one stretch. Though he ended that streak on a Nishikori break point, the Japanese converted his chance when Sweeting sliced a backhand into the net.
Serving for the match, Nishikori fell behind 15-30, but never appeared bothered or pressured. Sweeting, on the other hand, broke his racquet after missing a backhand on that point, and was forced to play the final two points with a new frame.
Nishikori wrapped up the win with a well-placed 84 mile-per-hour second serve that Sweeting sliced into the net.
“I was trying to stay calm,” said Nishikori, who made 65 percent of his first serves. “I’ve been hitting good serves this week and I’m trying to concentrate on my first serve. I’m usually a calm guy.”
Despite his success in Delray Beach and his years of training in Bradenton, Nishikori is still fairly anonymous in Florida. Not so in Japan, where his 2008 ITC title made him an instant celebrity.
“It’s totally different,” said Nishikori. “No one knows me here, so it’s much easier for me. If I stayed in Japan all the time, I might go crazy. I have to wear sunglasses and a hat, but it’s fun sometimes when everybody knows me. It’s good to be me.”
Nishikori Reaches SFs; Fish, delPo In Action Later
Delray Beach, U.S.A.
by ATP Staff | 25.02.2011
Former champion Kei Nishikori advanced to the semi-finals of the Delray Beach Tennis Championships Friday with a 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4 win over American Ryan Sweeting. In the semi-finals Nishikori will play Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic, who did not drop serve in a 7-6(0), 6-1 win over Croatian Ivan Dodig.
Nishikori won his first (and only) ATP World Tour title in Delray Beach less than two months after turning 18 back in 2008. In doing so he became the first Japanese ATP World Tour titlist since April 1992 (Shuzo Matsuoka at Seoul). Nishikori saved all three break points he faced and broke Sweeting three times.
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“I’m really happy to be in the semis tomorrow. It’s my favorite tournament, so hopefully I can go farther,” said Nishikori, who lives in Bradenton, Florida, where he can escape the spotlight of the Japanese media. “It’s totally different. No one knows me here, so it’s much easier for me. If I stayed in Japan all the time, I might go crazy. I have to wear sunglasses and a hat, but it’s fun sometimes when everybody knows me. It’s good to be me.”
Tipsarevic, who is chasing his first ATP World Tour title, said that his strong start to the first-set tie-break was crucial in his win over Dodig, who recently won the Zagreb title. “When the tie-break started, I just kept saying to myself that it’s really important that I start well,” Tipsarevic said. “That’s what happened. After 3-0, he made two or three unforced errors and he was done really fast.
"I’m really not trying to think about [winning my first title], even though it’s there in my mind. I think I have the quality to have an ATP title under my belt, but it just hasn’t happened for me yet. The main problem would be the consistency following me over the course of my career.”
Later tonight second seed and 2009 champion Mardy Fish, at a career-high No. 16 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings, is in action, playing Colombian qualifier Alejandro Falla. Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro attempts to reach his third consecutive semi-final (San Jose, Memphis) when he plays fifth seed and recent Johannesburg champion Kevin Anderson in the final match of the evening session.