An 'A' For Kei: Nishikori Dismisses In-Form Gasquet
Japanese No. 1 to face Medvedev for the title
Former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori has not won an ATP World Tour title since Memphis in February 2016. But the Japanese star defeated in-form No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet 7-6(2), 6-1 on Saturday to reach the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018 final, giving himself a chance to put that streak to an end.
Nishikori is now just one victory from joining former World No. 1s Stefan Edberg (4) and Pete Sampras (3) as the only players to win the Tokyo event at least three times. Only four competitors have lifted the trophy at this event twice; the two others are another former No. 1, Jim Courier, and Nishikori.
Nishikori’s run in Tokyo is also boosting the 28-year-old’s chances to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals. He began the week in tenth position in the ATP Race To London, trailing No. 8 Kevin Anderson by 885 points. But if Nishikori triumphs Sunday, he will gain 320 points on the South African, as Anderson fell to Gasquet in the quarter-finals.
A decade ago, Gasquet lost just three games en route to a win against a then-18-year-old Nishikori in Tokyo in their first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting. And on Saturday, the Frenchman brought a 7-2 lead in the pair’s series into their semi-final, but they had not clashed since 2016 Roland Garros.
Nishikori showed his growing confidence — having now won 11 of his past 13 matches, including a run to the US Open semi-finals — with another strong serving performance. He won 84 per cent of first-serve points and did not face a break point in his 90-minute triumph.
The Japanese player will try to break a streak of seven consecutive finals, Nishikori won his only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Medvedev, dismissing the Russian earlier this year in Monte-Carlo en route to the final.