Nishikori Is King In Memphis
Top seed aiming for fourth straight title
Kei Nishikori may not know much about country music or barbecued ribs, but the Japanese sure knows a thing or two about winning in Tennessee.
The three-time defending champion recorded his 15th consecutive win at the Memphis Open with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Mikhail Kukushkin on Friday night, advancing to an ATP World Tour semi-final for the first time since Toyko last fall (l. to Paire). He has not dropped a set against the Kazakh since 2012.
“Everything was working well for me,” Nishikori said. “I struggled a bit in the second set, but he hit some great shots. So I just had to focus on what I had to do. It was great to finish in two sets.”
Nishikori will next face Sam Querrey, who also has a history of success in Memphis. The American reached the semi-finals of the Memphis Open for a third time by dismissing Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 6-4.
“We had a lot of close games, it was a tough match,” Querrey said. “I kept hitting through the court, and I didn’t lay off on many balls. I was happy with the way I played.
“I didn’t know much about Nishioka, except that he’s a crafty lefty. It was tough to hit the ball through him but I kept pressing.”
The Japanese lefty had expressed excitement about the prospect of facing compatriot Nishikori for the first time in an ATP World Tour event, but Querrey, who made the final four in last year’s event, gave the qualifier nothing to work with. The fourth seed fired 11 aces, saved both break points faced and closed out the win in just 72 minutes.
Querrey will have a chance to avenge last year’s 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) semi-final loss to Nishikori. The Japanese leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 4-3, and has won the pair’s past three meetings.
“I remember that match really well,” said Nishikori, who liked his chances against Querrey. “It was a tough match. I’ll have to stay focused on my return game, and make sure I get a lot of first serves in.
“I enjoy slow courts and having long rallies, so I’m not sure if he’s going to like that or not. I really like the conditions here.”