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Nishikori ends title drought with Brisbane International win

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2019

Kei Nishikori claimed his first title in nearly three years with victory in the Brisbane International final.

The world number nine defeated Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, the man who beat Britain’s Andy Murray, 6-4 3-6 6-2.

The 29-year-old Japanese’s last tournament win was in Memphis in February 2016 but since then he has had time out with a wrist problem.

“I was able to return very deep and I think I put him under pressure.” he said.

Nishikori dominated throughout apart from one poor service game in the second set which allowed Medvedev, the world number 16, to level it at one set all.

But Nishikori recovered to storm into a 5-1 lead in the decider and he soon wrapped up victory.

And he hopes that he can continue the momentum into the Australian Open, where he has never been beyond the quarter-finals.

“I’m really happy that I’ve been playing really well this week,” he added.

“Even if I lost today, I think I was very confident, and some of the matches I played some of the best [players].

“So, I’m happy to go in Melbourne, and I feel like it’s one of my favourite tournaments there.”

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Nishikori Ends Title Drought In Brisbane

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2019

Nishikori Ends Title Drought In Brisbane

Japanese snaps nine-match losing streak in tour-level finals

Almost three years after capturing his 11th tour-level title in Memphis, Kei Nishikori added a 12th ATP Tour trophy to his collection at the Brisbane International on Sunday.

The Japanese star ended a streak of nine straight tour-level final losses to beat Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in a repeat of last year’s championship match in Tokyo, won by the Russian. Nishikori won 70 per cent of first-serve points (31/44) to earn victory, in his 51st event since his 2016 triumph in Tennessee, after two hours and four minutes.

“To win the tournament is very emotional. That’s why I’m playing,” said Nishikori. “I was trying in every final and every tournament… I played a great match against Dimitrov and today’s match was another good tennis [match]. I’m sure Daniil is going to be [in the] Top 10 soon.”

Nishikori becomes the first Japanese champion in Brisbane, two years after falling to Grigor Dimitrov in the championship match. The World No. 9 defeated Dimitrov en route to the title, beating the Bulgarian in the last eight before earning wins over Jeremy Chardy and Medvedev.

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Twelve months ago, Nishikori was forced to withdraw from Brisbane with a right wrist injury before returning to action on the ATP Challenger Tour in Newport Beach. The Japanese No. 1 soon returned to his best level, reaching three tour-level finals in 2018 before ending the season with a fourth appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

“I always start with this tournament and Melbourne, [but I] couldn’t make it last year. So I had to start at some ATP Challenger Tour events,” said Nishikori. “For sure, [this year is] a better start because I feel this tournament is always the start of the year. Playing with these guys, these top players, always motivates me. Playing good tennis [and being] very happy and healthy is one of the best keys for me.”

In the early stages, Medvedev proved comfortable exchanging backhands with Nishikori before bringing his forehand into play to seize control and open up a 3-0 lead. But Nishikori soon found his feet, increasing his aggression to strike forehand winners in important moments as Medvedev began to mistime his groundstrokes. Nishikori claimed five straight games to lead 5-3 and soon earned a one-set advantage after holding serve to love with a cross-court backhand winner. 

After saving eight break points early in the second set, Medvedev manufactured one of his own at 4-3 with consistent aggression on his backhand side to rush Nishikori into forced errors. Medvedev managed to get his backhand into play, firing a backhand winner up the line to break before levelling the match with a comfortable service hold.

“[In the] second set I was a waiting too much and I couldn’t convert all the chances I had. He did really well [in the] 4-3 game,” said Nishikori. “He took the risk and he did well. Credit to him.”

Nishikori attacked Medvedev’s forehand early in the third set, extracting multiple errors to gain a 3-1 lead before cruising to victory. The second seed earned a double-break advantage to serve for the match at 5-1 and, despite dropping serve, Nishikori claimed the title in the following game with a cross-court backhand passing shot.

“In the third set, I started playing a little bit more inside and start hitting more,” said Nishikori. “When I realised I had to do something to win this match, I think I made a change really well. I think I returned well. That was the biggest key. [I was] able to return very deep and I think I gave him a little pressure.”

Medvedev was bidding to capture his fourth ATP Tour hard-court title in 12 months, having lifted his maiden tour-level trophy at the Sydney International last year (d. De Minaur) before wins in Winston-Salem (d. Johnson) and Tokyo (d. Nishikori). In 2018, Medvedev led the ATP Tour with 38 hard-court victories (38-15).

“If Kei plays like this, he is going to have a lot of success in this season,” said Medvedev on court.

Nishikori receives 250 ATP Ranking points and collects $90,990 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Medvedev gains 150 ATP Ranking points and receives $49,205.

Did You Know?
Nishikori has earned 40 or more tour-level victories in four of the past five ATP Tour seasons (2014-’16, 2018). The Japanese star has notched 30 or more tour-level wins in each of the past eight ATP Tour seasons (2011-18).

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Giant-killer Andreescu beaten in Auckland final

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2019

Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu’s dream run at the Auckland International came to an end in the final with a three-set loss to defending champion Julia Gorges.

The 18-year-old world number 152 had beaten Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams on her way to the decider.

And she looked like taking her maiden title when she won the opening set against the German world number 14.

But Gorges fought back to take the match 2-6 7-5 6-1.

“I’ve played my best tennis this week,” said Andreescu. “But my body is honestly a mess.

“At 5-4 in the second set, it was really hard for me to stay in the moment, I was like ‘I’m one game away from winning the tournament’, but Julia dominated at that point and started going for her shots.”

Meanwhile, Czech world number eight Karolina Pliskova came from a set and a break down to beat Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the final of the Brisbane International.

Tsurenko, ranked 27, served for the match at 5-3 in the second set but Pliskova, a former world number one, eventually won 4-6 7-5 6-2 for her 12th career WTA title.

The Ukrainian took an injury timeout after rolling her ankle while being broken in the first game of the third set, and from then on her challenge faded.

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Johanna Konta retires from Sydney International as Heather Watson wins in Hobart

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2019

British number one Johanna Konta is out of the Sydney International tournament after retiring from her second-round qualifying match.

It is understood Konta suffered a neck injury, just a week before the Australian Open starts on 14 January.

Konta called a halt to play 18 minutes into her match against Russian Ekatarina Alexandrova when 4-1 down.

Compatriot Heather Watson reached the Hobart International main draw with a qualifying win over Isabelle Wallace.

Watson, 26, the British number two and a previous winner of the Hobart event, overcame the Australian 6-4 6-4.

“When I come to Hobart I’m always feeling really positive and excited about the tournament,” said Watson.

“When I’m happy, I play better. I’m very happy here and I think it shows in my results.”

Sydney-born Konta, ranked 37th in the world, reached the Australian Open semi-finals in 2016 and was a quarter-finalist in 2017, though she exited last year’s tournament in the second round.

There has not yet been official confirmation of the reason for her retirement, or the severity of any injury.

The tournaments in Sydney and Hobart are among the final WTA events before the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, begins.

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