Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Nishikori with His Second Marathon Win in a Row



Had you told me a few weeks ago, "Matt, you will spend over eight hours in three days watching Kei Nishikori play tennis and you will actually be riveted doing it," I would have assumed you were crazy. But after watching Nishikori upset Stan Wawrinka today for the better part of my afternoon, I must say Nishikori is the most fun scrambler to watch since his coach Michael Chang.  No point is ever over with Kei, as he chases down balls that seem impossible to reach and rarely, if ever, gives up no matter the sequence in the match.  At three different points during the proceedings, I wrote down "turning point" as Nishikori made a mistake or missed an open opportunity and at each juncture, Nishikori found a way to hang on.  In the third set, up a break and seemingly on the way to a 2-1 set lead, Kei tried a ridiculous between-the-legs shot that cost him the point and a service game, seeming to spell the end of his chances. But he fought back, held off two set points in the tiebreak and gritting out a huge third set win.

After the match, Nishikori talked about how he was able to summon up just enough energy to finish the victory and after two long matches, it would seem likely that he will be unable to continue the magic against either Djokovic or Murray.  But Nishikori, more than any other player on tour, finds a way to summon up big points where others have long since given up.  His ability to frustrate his opponents could be seen by Wawrinka's who post-match handshake was nearly as awkward as the ESPN television segment in which Patrick McEnroe discussed his "departure" from the USTA Player Development post (he said it was because he didn't want to move to Florida...sure thing, the "only one American male in the Top 50" had zero to do with it).  While advancing to the finals is probably a long shot, it surely the case that Kei will fight until the last point in a tournament he calls his favorite of the year.  If so, I might find myself enjoying another four hour marathon with Nishikori, who is quickly becoming my tennis comfort food.