Evaluating The London Hopefuls: John Isner And Kei Nishikori - UBITENNIS
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Evaluating The London Hopefuls: John Isner And Kei Nishikori

In this four-part series we will be evaluating the season’s of next week’s ATP Finals contenders. In this part we look at John Isner and Kei Nishikori.

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John Isner (zimbio.com)

As the ATP World Tour Finals are only four days, UbiTennis evaluates the hopefuls looking at London glory next week. We start with John Isner and Kei Nishikori. 

 

John Isner 

The eighth seed at this year’s season-ending championships is American John Isner, who is making his debut at 33 years old. The world number 10 didn’t have the best start to the season after only winning one match heading into the Miami Open.

However the American’s season was boosted in Florida, where he won his maiden masters 1000 event, beating an in-form Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexander Zverev en route. He would use Miami as a platform to build on as he would reach the quarter-finals in Madrid and reach the second week at Roland Garros in Paris.

A test of Isner’s confidence would be Wimbledon, which is a slam he has surprisingly done bad at despite grass being his strongest surface. The American would save match points against Ruben Bemelmans before reaching his first ever grand slam semi-final as he would lose in a Wimbledon epic to Kevin Anderson.

An Atlanta title as well as a US Open quarter-final would seal his breakthrough season as he aims to finish the year strong. One particular reason for Isner’s great season is his serving and as we can see below his kick serve out wide has won him a lot of free points.

Via ATPWorldTour.com

His serve on the Deuce side has been the main reason why he is in the ATP World Tour Finals next week and world number one Novak Djokovic will have to look out for that serve on Monday.

So at 33, John Isner has had a great season but can he live with the best, we will find out on Monday night in his first match.

John Isner’s Best Five Tournaments:

Miami Open Champion – 1000 pts

Wimbledon Semi-Finals – 720 pts

US Open quarter-finals – 360 pts

Atlanta Champion – 250 pts

Roland Garros Fourth Round – 180 pts

 

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori (zimbio.com)

As for Japan’s Kei Nishikori, 2018 has been a rough ride with many ups and downs but ends with a place at next week’s ATP Finals. The season started with a couple of challenger events before a couple of 250 events in America.

His first successful tournament was in Monte-Carlo where he reached the final before losing to a certain Rafael Nadal. A Rome quarter-final loss to Djokovic before reaching the second week in Paris saw a good spell from Nishikori.

After another Wimbledon quarter-final, Nishikori stepped his play up a gear with a very good semi-final run at the US Open, where he beat Marin Cilic and Diego Schwartzman on his way. A couple of finals losses in Tokyo and Vienna have seen the Japanese star qualify for London once again.

Potential Weakness?

Via ATPWorldTour.com

A potential weakness of Nishikori’s though is his ability to return down the tee and how short he gets the return. To beat the best players in the world, he needs to get the ball a lot deeper especially on the forehand side. This is something Roger Federer will look to exploit in their first match on Sunday.

The Deuce side returning game is something that Nishikori will need to focus on next season if he wants to aim for a spot in the top five of the world rankings.

Overall it is good to see Nishikori back to good form and will be interesting to see if he can get out of a fairly average Lleyton Hewitt Group.

Nishikori’s five best tournaments

US Open semi-finals – 720 pts

Monte-Carlo final – 600 pts

Wimbledon quarter-finals – 360 pts

Vienna Final – 300 pts

Tokyo Final – 300 pts

 

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Jelena Ostapenko cruises into the second round with a straight-set win over Petra Martic in Ostrava

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Former Roland Garros champion and world number 44 Jelena Ostapenko cruised past number 5 seed Petra Martic 6-3 6-1 after 57 minutes to reach the second round at J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Martic won her previous two head-to-head matches against Ostapenko at Indian Wells in 2018 and in Birmingham in 2019. 

Ostapenko has scored her milestone 20th career over a top-20 rival. The Latvian player hit 30 winners to 15 unforced errors. 

Martic got an early break in the first game and consolidated it with a hold of serve to take a 2-0 lead. Ostapenko saved two break points and held serve for 1-2 before breaking serve with a forehand passing shot in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. The Latvian player reeled off five consecutive games to open up a 5-2 lead. Martic held serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Ostapenko served out the set at love. Ostapenko hit 20 winners to 10 unforced errors. 

Ostapenko got an early break with a forehand crosscourt winner. The 2017 French Open champion went up a double break and hit a series of forehand winners to race out to a 4-0 lead extending her winning streak to five consecutive games. Martic held serve in the fifth game to close the gap to 1-4. Ostapenko held serve easily to build up a 5-1 lead with a crosscourt backhand winner. In the next game Ostapenko earned two match points, as Martic hit the netcord with a dropshot and closed out the match with a forehand down the line. 

“I think I played really well well today. I just got used to playing the first couple of games, but then I played really well and I did not give her any chances to play her game, and I made so many winners. I played very smart and also used dropshots and mixed it up a little bit, which helped me, but in the deciding moments I was still aggressive. I knew Martic was going to make a lot of balls in play and I would have to be very focused and very consistent to beat her”, said Ostapenko. 

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Maria Sakkari reaches her third quarter final of the season in Ostrava

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Maria Sakkari got through to her third quarter final of the season after beating Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-3 at the J&T Banka Open in Ostrava with five breaks and 32 winners. 

 

Sakkari has already reached two quarter finals in 2020 in St. Petersburg and at the Western and Southern Open in New York and scored the fourth win of her career against a top 5 player. 

Sakkari went up a 3-0 lead with a double break. Svitolina pulled one of the two breaks back in the fourth game to claw his way back to 1-3. Sakkari converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the first set 6-3. 

Svitolina earned her first break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. Sakkari battled to deuce four times and converted her third break points in a marathon fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Sakkari earned another brek to open up a 5-3 lead to close out the match after 1 hour and 16 minutes. 

“Obviously winning against a player like Elina, the way I played I think that made me happy today. I think playing like me gives me a lot of confidence. Getting another top 5 win is very important for me. When I was starting my career, I had people telling me that I cannot play indoors. I think it was a big mistake listening to them. I have beaten very good indoor players in St. Petersburg and here in Ostrava. I have developed my game in a way that I can now be dangerous indoor sas well. My serve is big, and I am playing a little bit more aggressive. So I am super happy. I have proved these people wrong”, said Sakkari.

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Grigor Dimitrov rallies from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar in Antwerp

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Grigor Dimitrov came back from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar 4-6 6-3 6-4 at the European Open in Antwerp.

 

Andujar earned the break in the ninth game to win the first set 6-4. Dimitrov went up an early break in the second game to take the second set 6-3. The Bulgarian player raced out to a 4-1 lead with a double break in the decider. Andujar pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4. Dimitrov saved four match points in the eighth game to hold serve at deuce and converted his first match point in the 10th game to win the third set 6-4. 

Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat this year’s US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7 6-3 6-4 after 2 hours and 33 minutes Humbert earned an early break in the second game of the opening set to build up a 5-2 lead. Carreno Busta fought back by winning five consecutive games with two breaks in the ninth and eleventh games to win the first set 7-5. 

Humbert saved four break points in the fifth game before breaking serve in the eighth game to win the second set sending the match to the third set. Humbert fended off four break points at 2-3 in the third set and broke serve to love to take a 5-4 lead, when Carreno Busta made three consecutive groundstroke errors. Humbert has improved his win-loss record to 18-11 and won the ASB Classic title in Auckland last January. The Frenchman scored the biggest win of his career when he beat Danil Medvedev in the Hamburg quarter final. 

Humbert will face either US Taylor Fritz or South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Fritz dropped six of his first service points in his 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 win over his compatriot Reilly Opelka. 

Milos Raonic beat Aljaz Bedene 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in 86 minutes setting up a second round match against Cameron Norrie. Bedene fended off two match points, when he was serving at 5-6 15-40 to force the second set to the tie-break. Raonic rallied from 1-3 down to win the tie-break 7-4. The Canadian player reached the final at the Western and Southern Open in New York and lost to Borna Coric in the semifinal in St. Petersburg.  

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