A Cilic-Nishikori match at the US Open brings everyone’s memory back to the 2014 Final, when the two ‘NextGen’-ish defeated Federer and Djokovic in the semifinals and squared off for the first major final in almost a decade not involving one of the Big Four.
In 2018, after four years of a few ups and many downs for both of them, including serious injuries and important coaching changes, they faced each other once again on Arthur Ashe for a place in a Major’s semifinal, which would be the first one for Nishikori since that 2014 exploit while Cilic has reached two finals in the last five Majors.
It was the Croatian to sprint from the starting blocks with three points lost in four service games, while Nishikori could only respond with a meager 39% of first serves, not enough to protect him from Cilic’s attacks. Marin went up a break also in the second set, before losing his serve to love and dropping six games in a row, flipping the score from 4-2 Cilic, to 6-2, 2-0 Nishikori in the third set. The Croatian looked almost asleep as Kei was sailing through the second set, but he managed to wake up to reach the third set tie-break, when he failed to complete the comeback by stumbling onto two consecutive double faults at 4-3 to lose the set.
After leveling the match at two sets all with a 6-4 in the fourth set generated by only one break, the two created a fifth set that summarizes their roller-coaster-like career: Cilic dropped his serve in the fourth game, had to face a further break point for 1-5, but he Nishikori could not consolidate his advantage and started wobbling with his serve and his forehand to allow his opponent to clinch parity at 4-4.
The final act of the drama was consumed in the tenth game with Cilic serving at 4-5, missing two critical forehands to give two match points to Nishikori at 15-40: the Japanese converted the first one with a blistering cross-court forehand return and could raise his arms in victory.
“He started very well – said Nishikori after the match – and also, I didn’t make any first serve in the beginning, especially. I didn’t feel like I was playing great. I had to stay tough, especially second set. I started playing better from 4-2. I tried to swing little more and play aggressive and start working better from 4-2 down”.
“I felt like he was playing good tennis, and he gave me some free points, but he was playing great today so it wasn’t easy. But I really happy to win, go through matches like this. You know, it wasn’t easy, and I didn’t feel like I was playing, you know, best tennis today, but, you know, fought through somehow and, yeah, gives me big confidence playing semis next round”.
Nishikori will face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals on Friday, just like four years ago, when he defeated him for the very last time (12-2 for the Serbian the head-to-head record): “I don’t have great record against Novak – commented Kei – but it’s always been a tough match the last couple of years. I have had chances, but I have not been able to take the last step. It’s always exciting to play Novak, because it’s a great challenge for me. Especially after coming from injury, I think I’m enjoying this challenge. I will try to play same like today being aggressive and positive out there and hope I can play another good tennis next round”.
‘Another Level’ – Nick Kyrgios Praises Rising Star Jannik Sinner
This week the world No.11 is bidding to win his third consecutive indoor tournament.
Jannik Sinner’s recent dominance when it comes to playing tennis indoors hasn’t gone unnoticed with one of his peers praising him on social media.
The 20-year-old defeated Reilly Opelka in the second round of the Vienna Open on Wednesday in what is his fifth consecutive win on the Tour. Impressively Sinner has now won 18 straight sets on indoor hardcourts. Last Sunday he claimed his fifth Tour title at the European Open to become the youngest ATP player to win that many ATP trophies since Novak Djokovic back in 2007.
Sinner’s achievements were highlighted on social media by journalist Ben Rothenberg who posted a tweet of the 18 sets he has won. That caught the attention of former top 20 player and two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios who paid his own tribute to the Italian.
“He is another level. That’s for sure, played him in Washington doubles. Never played someone who hit the ball as hard,” he wrote.
The two are yet to play against each other in singles competition. In Washington Kyrgios and Frances Tiafoe lost 4-6, 4-6, to Sinner and his partner Sebastian Korda.
Sinner’s latest win in Vienna has boosted his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin next month. He has risen back up the standings to 10th in the race after overtaking Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie. Norrie will play his second round match on Thursday.
“I think I had not so many chances and I used them. I think that was the key today,” Sinner said of his latest win against Opelka. “I served well. My service holds were always quite fast and good. I felt well on the baseline, so I knew when I went in a rally that somehow I was going to win the point. But it’s never easy playing against him. You never have rhythm.”
Awaiting Sinner in the next round will be Austria’s Denis Novak who is currently ranked 116th in the world and is yet to beat a top 10 player in his career.
Denis Shapovalov Battles Back To Reach The Quarterfinals In St Petersburg
The Canadian got off to a slow start in his first match but was able to recover nicely for a big three-set win.
Second seed Denis Shapovalov needed to go the distance at the St Petersburg Open to beat his Spanish opponent Pablo Andujar 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in one hour and 49 minutes.
The Toronto native didn’t have the best start to the match but was able to recover and pull off a comeback to take the win. Serving a total of 11 aces to reach the quarterfinals.
” It’s very tough to play Pablo (Andujar) first round of a tournament, he’s a great player and it was a tough start to the match,” said Shapovalov. “I didn’t feel so great but I just told myself to keep going because obviously there is still a lot of tennis to be played and I wanted to turn it around in the second set and I did a really good job.”
It was the Spaniard who got off to a better start, earning a breakpoint in the first game of the match before grabbing the early break and he was able to consolidate it. At 2-0, Andujar had two chances to go up a double break but the Canadian saved both and it stayed on serve until 4-2 when the world number 92 was able to earn another breakpoint. This time converted for the double break lead and served out the first set.
The second set stayed on serve until 2-1 when Shapovalov broke to love and that one break of serve was enough for him to serve it out and send the match into a decider.
The Canadian continued pushing as his level improved. In the first game of the final set, he broke the Spaniard with a perfectly timed cross-court winner to take an early 1-0 lead. After consolidating the break he was hungry for more and broke Andujar’s serve once again to go up a double break. Shapovalov closed the match out with a bagel set.
During his on-court interview, Shapovalov was asked how happy he was back to be in St Peterburg and he mentioned the amazing memories he had playing in the event last year.
” It always feels great to be back and I remember last year playing Andrey (Rublev) in the semifinals. I was one set up and I lost this match but I am happy to be here due to the fact I always get great support from the fans here”. He said.
Shapovalov will face Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarterfinals after the German upset seventh seed Alexander Bublik in straight sets (6-4, 6-3).
Former World No.8 And Grand Slam Champion Jurgen Melzer Retires
Melzer ends a career which has seen him crack the world’s top 10 in both singles and doubles.
After more than two decades on the Tour, Jurgen Melzer has played his final match after bowing out of the Vienna Open on Wednesday.
The 40-year-old confirmed earlier this year that he would end his career at his home tournament. Teaming up with Alexander Zverev in the doubles, the duo lost in straight sets to third seeds Filip Polášek and John Peers. Melzer is a two-time champion in Vienna after winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. He later went on to win the doubles title in 2014.
“I was a bit afraid that not so many would come after all. Thank you very much, it was a huge honour for me to leave here,” Melzer said during his on-court interview.
“He (Zverev) didn’t hesitate five seconds to play here with me, that is not a matter of course when you’re at number four and you’re close to the Masters. Unfortunately, it was a short undertaking, but thank you.” He added.
Melzer first rose to prominence as a junior when he became the first Austrian to win the Wimbledon boys’ title back in 1999. He would go on to play in a total of 53 Grand Slam main draws during his professional career with his best run being to the semi-finals of the 2010 French Open. On the ATP Tour he claimed five titles with his most prestigious being at an ATP 500 event in Memphis during the 2012 season.
Against top 10 opposition, Melzer has beaten every member of the Big Three at least once. The most notable being against Novak Djokovic where he battled back from two sets down to stun the Serbian at the 2010 French Open. Overall, he recorded 13 wins over top 10 players during his career.
“My career started here (in Vienna) on an international level almost 22 years ago, in 1999 here in the town hall, where for the first time I was allowed to dream of really going the way as a professional tennis player. 22 years later and I would have signed everything, what I have achieved. It was an unbelievable journey that ends today. That I couldn’t have dreamed of.”
It wasn’t just in the singles where Melzer enjoyed success on the Tour. As a double player he achieved a ranking high of sixth and won two men’s Grand Slam titles with Philipp Petzschner, as well claiming the 2011 Wimbledon mixed doubles trophy with his ex-wife Iveta Benešová. More recently, Melzer reached the final of the 2020 ATP Finals alongside Édouard Roger-Vasselin. That was to be the last Tour final of his career.
“Of course you still hope to be at the top, but at some point you will be realistic enough to be able to assess that it will not be enough. It was an unbelievable journey that was a lot of fun. It is over, but it is also good that way.” He concluded.
Whilst his time on the Tour has come to an end, Melzer will remain involved in tennis. He is currently working as the Sports director of the Austrian Tennis Federation (OTV). A role he has held since January.
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