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Nishikori Playing For Japan In Houston Final

Houston, U.S.A.

Nishikori© Aaron M. Sprecher/ROCCKei Nishikori advances to his first clay-court final.

Kei Nishikori is one win away from becoming the highest-ranked Japanese player in the history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings (since 1973) after advancing to the final of the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston. Nishikori, who defeated Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 7-5 in Saturday’s semi-finals, says that he hopes he can win for his countrymen and women who are still reeling from the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country.

“It’s not like I can promise to win, but with the conditions in Japan I hope I can win tomorrow and give them a little bit of hope,” said Nishikori, who is looking to add to the title he won in Delray Beach in 2008. “It’s always in my mind but when I play my match I have to concentrate. It’s also the first time that my parents are with me for a final.”

Since the earthquake and tsunami Nishikori has been at the forefront of the tennis community's efforts to raise funds for disaster relief.

By reaching the final, Nishikori is projected to break into the Top 50 for the first time in his career. Should he win the title he is likely to move to No. 41, surpassing Shuzo Matsuoka’s career-best of No. 46 on July 6, 1992.

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“ I played great today, grinding away despite not being good on serve. It was tough conditions, hot and humid, but I battled through.”

American Ryan Sweeting advanced to his first ATP World Tour final after stopping the run of 6’ 10” Croatian Ivo Karlovic in the semi-finals Saturday. Sweeting won 7-6(3), 6-3 to reach the title match.

World No. 93 Sweeting withstood 12 aces from former champion Karlovic, who this year began his journey in the qualifying rounds and on Friday toiled for more than three hours to take out fellow big-serving giant John Isner.

“I feel great here in Houston,” Sweeting said. “Ivo had a three hour match and was in a little bit of pain out here today. I knew he'd be serving big, but you can’t let that bother you. You’ve just got to take care of your own serve. It’s good to get to my first final here in the States and here in Houston."

"I had trouble with allergies today and I was not at my best," Karlovic admitted after the match. "I could not breathe properly and I felt worse and worse as the match progressed. But all in all it was a good week. Ryan played really well and i wish him all the best in the final."

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