Kei Nishikori continued his charge for a third title in Tokyo on Friday, defeating in-form #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the semi-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018.
“I was very happy today,” Nishikori said. “This week, it’s been great, everything. My serve, return, strokes, I’m feeling pretty confident this week.”
It is the fourth time in his six most recent appearances that Nishikori has played his way to the last four in Japan. He has also made the semi-finals at three consecutive tournaments: the US Open, the Moselle Open and now his home event.
The 28-year-old has claimed victory in 21 or more matches at four different tournaments thanks to his efforts against Tsitsipas — the US Open (23-9), the Australian Open (23-8), Miami (21-8) and now Tokyo (21-7). If Nishikori manages to beat No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson or No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet in the next round and then triumphs in the final, it will be the second time he has captured a title three times, having won a quartet of Memphis titles.
But that won’t be the only interesting note if the Japanese goes all the way this week. Nishikori has played 46 tour-level events since he last lifted a trophy at Memphis two years ago. If he is able to win two more matches, the Japanese star will earn his 12th ATP World Tour trophy and his sixth on indoor hard courts.
His form on Friday evening certainly looked to be nearing a championship level, as he won an impressive 48 per cent of return points, and claimed 85 per cent of his first-serve points.
“I think it was one of the best service matches I’ve had the past couple of months,” Nishikori said. “I’m very happy with my serve. I had many free points, many aces and only a few games I struggled today, so I was serving really well. That’s why I was able to be aggressive on my return games.”
Nishikori's uptick in form has come at a perfect time, as the Japanese is pushing for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals in November. He began the week No. 10 in the ATP Race To London, 885 points behind eighth-placed Anderson, who also remains alive in Tokyo.
Tsitsipas remains the ATP World Tour’s leader in wins at the 500-level this season with 13. The Greek has 33 match wins this season after beginning the year with four in his career.
Photo Credit: Hiroshi Sato