MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 17: Kei Nishikori of Japan celebrates winning match point in his second round match against Ivo Karlovic of Croatia during day four of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 17, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Kei Nishikori broke his hard-court hoodoo as he beat Canadian sensation Felix Auger Aliassime in a dominant straight-sets victory at ATP Rotterdam Open. This was Nishikori’s first hard court victory in 18 months as he last won a hard court match at US Open 2019.
Felix was the defending runner-up in the tournament and after a fourth round run at Australian Open 2021 a lot more was expected of him. Whereas Nishikori was on a bad run. This was Nishikori’s first victory since French Open 2020. Moreover, he recorded his first victory over a top 20 player since Brisbane Open 2019.
The match started off on a strong note for both players. No one giving their opponent a sniff at a breakpoint. Nishikori was back, serving beautifully. He kept a disciplined line and had a high first-serve percentage. Felix was not behind him either.
At 3-3, the tide was shifting towards Nishikori. The Japanese ace was piling the pressure on the young Canadian. Felix’s service holds were long and tiresome, yet he somehow got away. At 5-4, it looked like Nishikori would get a break point and win the set, but Felix denied him. Felix took the first set to a tiebreaker. Here also both players were inseparable.
At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, Felix cracked and gave an important point to Nishikori. From there the Japanese took the first set 7-6. The set lasted 1 hour 7 minutes and had some clutch Nishikori bankhands.
The second set was dominant as any set could be. Nishikori was ruthless and was racing away. He just lost two points of his service in the second set. And he had a first-serve percentage of 89%. His shots were finding the lines and it showed glimpses of the early Nishikori that everyone feared.
For Felix, it looked like he was dealing with some niggle. He had awful service games and won just one game in the entire set. Nishikori was having to return simple serves, and Felix wasn’t engaging in the short rallies as well.
In the end, Nishikori won seven points in a row to quickly finish the set. The second set lasted only 31 minutes as Nishikori took the set and match, 7-6, 6-1.
Read More: Kei Nishikori Optimistic About Returning to Top-10 Rankings Following Early Exit at Australian Open 2021
Bhavishya Mittal is an avid sports fan and covers tennis for EssentiallySports. He is pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication from Manipal Institute of Communication. He has been following tennis since 2011 and his favorite player is Roger Federer. Bhavishya has a keen eye for catching eventful happenings in the sports world.