Kei Nishikori Crashes Out To Qualifier Dennis Novikov In Newport Beach
The No. 1 seed Kei Nishikori was unsuccessful in his first match back losing to American qualifier Dennis Novikov 3-6 6-3 4-6.
It was definitely an unpleasant start to the season for Kei Nishikori. The World No. 24 hasn’t played since August last year and skipped Australian Open to play a Challenger in Newport Beach. Due to being ranked in Top 50 Nishikori had to be given a wildcard to enter Newport Beach, and he was widely considered the favorite for the title.
Dennis Novikov was on the other end of the spectrum, having to beat Uchida, Sarmiento, and Galan in qualifying just to play the main draw. He reached his career high of No. 119 in 2016 but is currently down at No. 238.
Novikov did not seem nervous to begin the biggest match of his career. He played the flat aggressive game that he showed through qualifying and it was effective. Nishikori seemed rather passive and rusty in the opening set. He seemed to spin his serves at around 160 km/h (there was no official serve speed measure) and just tried to keep himself in rallies. Novikov got a break for 3-1 and kept it for the remainder of the set, winning it 6-3.
Nishikori played a very high-level second set. Novikov seemed to fail at high-pressure points, giving Nishikori a 5-1 lead. Novikov fought and broke Nishikori back, but the former No. 4 did not fail in serving the set out the second time. Nishikori won the second set 6-3.
Both players were serving very well in the deciding set. Novikov took a very aggressive approach, often serve and volleying efficiently. At 3-4 down, Nishikori had two double faults and got broken to 3-5. Novikov had a tough time with serving the match out and played more passively than throughout the match. He got broken back. He got himself back together over the changeover, and with high-risk shots, he forced another break to get the win. Dennis Novikov will face wildcard Reilly Opelka in the second round.
Here are some quotes from Nishikori’s press conference:
How did your wrist feel in the match?
“The wrist was fine, I need to get used to more matches. I still felt very rusty on the court, my game was very up and down. There were some positive and some negative things and I still have to work on myself.”
What were the positive things that you can take from your match?
“The wrist was feeling pretty good, so that is the biggest positive for me right now. I still need better groundstrokes and not miss easy balls. I need to get more confidence and more matches.”
Why did you decide to skip Australian Open but come play Newport Beach a week later?
“My wrist was still not a 100% when I decided not to join. I wasn’t sure if I could play five sets with my wrist and that’s why I chose to play here. I need some matches. It was good to have three sets today without too much pain. I need one more week of practice here and hopefully, I can play well in New York and Acapulco.”