Pole Position: Hurkacz Upsets Nishikori
Historically, no player has enjoyed more success in deciding sets than Kei Nishikori. But 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Hubert Hurkacz showed no fear on Tuesday when he defeated the Japanese star 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Hurkacz has now won both of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Nishikori in three sets, after also defeating the World No. 7 last month at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Nishikori is 129-43 in tour-level deciding sets (75%), meaning that nearly five per cent of his losses in matches that have gone the distance have come against Hurkacz in the span of a month.
"Kei is an unbelievable player, so I’m very happy to be able to win against him," said Hurkacz. "He’s a great competitor. Was really tough, tough match today. I was trying to stay positive, to fight for every point and it worked out at the end. I was just trying to serve well. This was helping me to get a few free points. Against such a great player, it’s really crucial."
Top Performers In Deciding Sets In The Open Era (FedEx ATP Performance Zone)
|1. Kei Nishikori||129-43||75.0%|
|2. Novak Djokovic||171-58||74.7%|
|3. John McEnroe||124-45||73.4%|
This time last year, Hurkacz was No. 212 in the ATP Rankings and he did not own an ATP Tour win. Now, the 22-year-old is into the fourth round of an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time. Before arriving in Indian Wells, Hurkacz was 0-2 in Masters 1000 main draws. But with three-set victories against Australian Open semi-finalist Lucas Pouille and Nishikori, he will have a chance to reach the quarter-finals when he faces 24th seed Denis Shapovalov, who ousted 10th seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-2 in 78 minutes.
Hurkacz, who hit 10 aces and won 84 per cent of his first-serve points against Nishikori, is currently at a career-high No. 67 in the ATP Rankings. During Indian Wells last season, the Pole won an ATP Challenger Tour title in Zhuhai, China and reached the semi-finals the next week in Shenzhen.
"I started good today, I think. But obviously he played much better in the second and third. He start making more serves. He was playing more solid from baseline. I think he was feeling the ball much more than in the first set," Nishikori said. "If I could've gotten a few points, maybe things change, but I couldn't. Credit to him today."
Nishikori was trying to reach the fourth round in the desert for the fourth straight time. While he missed last year's tournament due to illness, Nishikori advanced to the quarter-finals at the year's first Masters 1000 event in 2016-17. The sixth seed is 13-4 in 2019.