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Nishikori Completes Fairytale Run To Tokyo Title

Tokyo, Japan

Nishikori© AFP/Getty ImagesKei Nishikori celebrates winning the Tokyo title.

Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese player to win the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships title on Sunday.

Eighth seed Nishikori defeated sixth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-0 in two hours and nine minutes to lift his second ATP World Tour trophy. It was the youngest final in 58 tournaments on the ATP World Tour this year.

“I have not been able to play well in Japan until now, so I always thought perhaps I was not mentally strong enough to do so,” Nishikori said in a translation. “But the match against Berdych, something changed. I was able to play much better yesterday and today as well. On one side of my mind, I cannot believe I won the tournament, but at the same time, I feel that I’m happy I was able to do this.”

Watch Nishikori Interview

Brad Drewett, the ATP Executive Chairman and President, said, "I would like to offer my congratulations to Kei Nishikori on becoming the first Japanese man to win the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships title in Tokyo. 

"Kei is a terrific player who is already a star at home in Japan and among the Top 20 players in the world. I’m sure this historic win over a very difficult field in Tokyo will give him great confidence and we look forward to seeing all that he can do. Kei has a very bright future on the ATP World Tour and we couldn’t be more proud of him."

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Nishikori took a 3-1 lead in the first set, before Raonic found his range on serve and fought his way back. Nishikori was unable to convert two set point opportunities on Raonic’s serve at 6-5, but kept his nerve in the tie-break.

Raonic responded by breaking Nishikori in the eighth game of the second set. 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 won just nine of his service points in the third set.

The 22-year-old Nishikori received $308,130 in prize money and 500 South African Airways ATP Ranking points, while 21-year-old Raonic earned $138,920 and 300 points. The two were squaring off for the first time.

“He attacks on his returns and goes up to the net quickly. And he is willing to take risks. I watched him play Murray,” 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.”

Raonic, who was bidding to capture his third ATP World Tour trophy of the title, was hoping to rise to No. 10 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings Race To London. He drops to a 43-17 match record on the year.

Watch Raonic Interview

“He just played too well. There’s not too much I could do,” said Raonic. “He played better than me and deserved to win. [In the third set], he started playing well, was reading me a bit more, and a few mistakes starting coming from me.”

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