Nishikori Upsets Defending Champ Cilic
by ATP Staff
World No. 98 Kei Nishikori made a dream start to the 2011 ATP World Tour season as he ousted two-time defending champion Marin Cilic, 4-6, 7-6(0), 6-2, in the first round of the Aircel Chennai Open on Monday.
The 21-year-old Nishikori, who has added Brad Gilbert as a consultant on his coaching team this season, shook off the loss of the first set to hold his nerve in the second set tie-break, winning it to love to level the match. The top Japanese player then broke Cilic’s serve for the first time at the start of the third set and went on to break again in the seventh game to clinch victory in two hours and 33 minutes.
"It's my first match, with a new coach, new clothes, so I was nervous before the match but I'm really happy," said Nishikori. "I haven't seen the draw beyond Cilic, but everyone can play well and my next match will be tough.
"I've changed my tennis a bit - I am trying not to miss as many easy balls, and trying raise my percentage tennis. We just started with Brad. He's coming next week to Adelaide actually. He's a great coach and [has] good with tactics. He knows a lot of things so it should be an advantage for me."
Last year, Nishikori climbed 322 places in the South African Airways ATP Rankings after overcoming a right elbow injury. As well as winning four ATP Challenger Tour titles, he also reached the third round at the US Open after battling past Cilic in a 4hr., 59., marathon second-round match.
The No. 14-ranked Cilic saw his 10-match winning streak in Chennai come to an end, having won back-to-back titles in 2009 (d. Devvarman) and 2010 (d. Wawrinka). After winning the title last year, the Croatian went on to achieve his best Grand Slam result by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals (l. to Murray).
Nishikori upsets Cilic in first round of Chennai Open
AP - Monday, January 3, 2011
CHENNAI, India (AP)—Marin Cilic’s preparations for this month’s Australian Open suffered a setback Monday when he lost to Kei Nishikori of Japan 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2 in the first round of the Chennai Open.
The second-seeded Cilic broke his opponent in the fifth game to grab the opening set, but Nishikori turned the match on its head with an inspired fightback to send the two-time defending champion packing.
In other matches, Robert Kendrick of the United States, Bjorn Phau of Germany, and Stephane Robert of France, recorded straight-set victories to make the second round.
“I’m a little bit disappointed the way I have started the year. I wouldn’t say I played too bad … I didn’t have luck at crucial moments, the key points he played better than me,” Cilic said.
The 98th-ranked Nishikori, who defeated Cilic in a tough five-setter in the second round of the U.S. Open last year, outpaced the Croatian in a dramatic second set in which he saved three break points in the 11th game.
“The first two sets were very close. (My) losing the second set, he took the momentum from me,” Cilic said. “The momentum he got, the way he played after that, I could not come back.”
The 21-year-old Nishikori won the tiebreak without dropping a point and then broke Cilic in the first game of the third set to take an early grip on the decider before serving out for the match after breaking again in the seventh game.
“I was nervous, first match for me … new coach (Brad Gilbert), new trainer. (But) it was a good match today,” Nishikori said of the opening set.
The Florida-based Japanese attributed his fightback to changes he has made to his game.
“Not to miss easy balls, not doing crazy stuff… (to play) more percentage tennis,” he said. “In the second set I tried to make most of my first serves… I was making him move.”
No. 6-ranked Tomas Berdych heads the field and the Czech will open the new season on Tuesday with a first round match against Frederico Gil of Portugal.