Kei & Milos: The Rivalry
A recap of every match between Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic...
Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori have faced off seven times—a far cry from the scores of meetings between rivals like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray—but the contentious head-to-head results from the two youngest players in the Emirates ATP Rankings Top 10 suggest a long future of riveting tennis.
Though Nishikori leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series record 5-2, including an epic five-set win in the fourth round of the 2014 US Open, each result has hinged on a handful of key points. The duo has played a whopping 10 tie-breaks total, reaching a deciding set in five of their seven matches.
The 25-year-old Nishikori has won four of their five matchups on hard courts in addition to grabbing a win on clay. Raonic, 24, triumphed in their only grass-court meeting at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships.
Here is an in-depth look at their previous clashes.
2015 Davis Cup World Group first round, Vancouver, indoor hard, Nishikori d. Raonic 36 63 64 26 64
In the latest chapter of their rivalry, Nishikori and Raonic met in the Davis Cup World Group first round with national pride on the line. Nishikori, sitting at a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of World No. 4, denied Raonic the chance to clinch the tie and send Canada to the quarter-finals with yet another hard-fought victory.
Nishikori claimed the key break of serve at 4-4 in the fifth set after the Canadian World No. 6 threw in an untimely double fault on the indoor courts at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver. Nishikori prevailed even while winning three fewer points than his opponent in the three-hour and four-minute match.
"It seems we always play long five-setters," Nishikori said. "I can't do anything with his first serve, but I tried to give him a lot of pressure on his second, stepping in more and hitting winners. I have a lot of confidence from these past couple months."
2015 Brisbane International presented by Suncorp semi-final, Brisbane, hard, Raonic d. Nishikori 67(4) 76(4) 76(4)
With their past two matches going the distance, perhaps it was no surprise that this two hour and 33-minute contest featured no breaks of serve and ended with Raonic securing just two more total points than Nishikori.
The Canadian World No. 6 looked in danger of his third straight defeat to his Japanese rival, ranked just one spot ahead of him in the Emirates ATP Rankings at the time, but extended the match by winning the final three points of the second set tie-break.
After saving a break point in the opening game of the third set, Raonic went on to claim his second straight win in a decisive tie-break (d. Groth in QF), helped largely by his 34 aces. Both players won 77 per cent of their service points and saved all three break points faced on serve.
"I felt like we both played really well. The level of tennis was very high, especially starting the year off," said Raonic.
2014 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships final, Tokyo, hard, Nishikori d. Raonic 76(5) 46 64
As the 2014 Emirates ATP Race To London heated up, it was Nishikori who followed up his US Open win with another razor-thin victory over Raonic in front of his home crowd in Tokyo. It was the Canadian’s third straight loss in the tournament final and his second to Nishikori, who also beat him there in 2012.
With typhoon Phanfone advancing towards Tokyo on the morning of the final, organisers had no option but to close the retractable roof on an already fast Center Court.
In the decider, it was Nishikori who applied pressure. With victory in sight, he was aggressive and took the ball early to set up three match points on Raonic’s serve. Ten thousand spectators in the Ariake Colosseum celebrated his win as he shared an emotional hug with his coach, Michael Chang.
2014 US Open fourth round, New York City, hard, Nishikori d. Raonic 46 76(4) 67(6) 75 64
The fourth meeting between the pair was one for the history books. Their four-hour and 19-minute marathon ended at 2:26 a.m. local time, tying the record for the latest finish ever at the US Open.
Despite tallying 86 winners, including 35 aces, Raonic fell just short in theNishikori, Raonic five-setter. Seeded 10th, it was Nishikori who notched his 14th Top 10 victory with his win over the No. 5 seed. It was his first at the US Open since 2008, when he outlasted fourth-ranked David Ferrer in five sets. The match moved him to 9-2 in five-set encounters.
“It's going to bring confidence for sure for the next round,” said Nishikori, who would go on to lose to Marin Cilic in the final. “[It was a] really tough five sets. I’m very happy to win today.
2014 Wimbledon fourth round, London, grass, Raonic d. Nishikori 46 61 76(4) 63
Just months before falling to Nishikori at the US Open, it was Raonic who got the best of his foe in a Grand Slam. After reaching the final eight at Roland Garros, he needed to defeat the Japanese for the first time in three attempts to repeat the feat on the grass of Wimbledon.
Raonic failed to get off to a strong start, with Nishikori breaking the big server in the opening game. Raonic found his rhythm in the second set, firing 35 aces and only facing one more break point in the two-hour and 27-minutes contest.
2014 Mutua Madrid Open fourth round, Madrid, clay, Nishikori d. Raonic 76(5) 76(5)
Nishikori reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final at the Mutua Madrid Open (l. to Nadal), but the road wasn't easy for the 24 year old. In addition to needing 10 match points to overcome a fifth-ranked David Ferrer in the semi-finals, he needed to fight past Raonic on the red clay.
He would conjure a clutch display of tennis to prevail in two tie-breaks, 7-6(5), 7-6(5), rallying from 2-5 down in the first set and winning five more points than Raonic to claim victory in just over two hours.
"It was really tough because against Raonic you don't get many rallies and you don't get rhythm,” said Nishikori. “He was very aggressive and playing well... It's a great opportunity for me. I'm playing well and feeling very confident.”
2012 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships final, Tokyo, hard, Nishikori d. Raonic 76(5) 36 60
With his first win over Raonic, Nishikori became the first Japanese man to claim the Tokyo title to the delight of his home crowd. Aged 22 and 21, respectively, Nishikori and Raonic combined for the youngest final in 58 ATP World Tour tournaments that year.
Despite a tight first two sets, Nishikori swept through the decider, converting three of his six break point chances en route to a his first trophy since February 2008 at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships (d. Blake). Raonic, then ranked No. 23 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, won just nine of his service points in the third set.
“He attacks on his returns and goes up to the net quickly. And he is willing to take risks,” said Nishikori. “Despite the break in the first game, there were some dangerous moments in the first set. I tried to stay aggressive. I was able to continue doing so and was able to get the final set 6-love.”