Nishikori Completes Historic Memphis Four-Peat
The Japanese joined Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the only active players to win four consecutive titles at a single tournament, turning in another efficient performance at the Memphis Open presented by ServiceMaster.
Nishikori found the right chord in the musical metropolis of Memphis, overcoming nine aces and turning aside five of six break points faced. The top seed ended Fritz's Cinderella week after the World No. 145 18-year-old streaked to his first ATP World Tour final in just his third tour-level event.
Active Players To Complete A Four-Peat
|Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Roland Garros (twice)
|Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, Beijing
"It's amazing to win four in a row," said Nishikori. "I tried not to think about it too much this week. I didn't feel a lot of pressure. It was a tough start again today, but I managed it better. I played better tennis as the match went on and I'm happier with the second set. I only gave him a few points on my serve in the last few games.
"We practised five or six times the past few years in California, so I know how he plays. I never beat him before, so I was happy to beat him in a match. I tried different tactics to make him move more. He has very good reach so it's not easy to hit winners, especially on these slow courts. I had to finish the points strong with my legs. He was tough to play.
"I felt a lot of support even here in the US against an American. A lot of Japanese came out today."
Fritz got off to a roaring start, claiming 12 of the first 14 points. A hammered backhand return drew a Nishikori error and handed Fritz the break for 2-0 in the first set, but the more experienced Japanese would withstand the barrage of offensive blows to break back for 2-2 and turn the momentum. Behind a strong defensive display and superior movement, Nishikori claimed the first set and snatched the decisive break in the second for 3-2. Fritz did well to escape from a 0/40 hole in the opening game and had an opportunity for a break of his own with a pair of chances three games later, but Nishikori dug in his heels. A rifled forehand winner sealed the win on his third match point after one hour and 19 minutes.
Nishikori notched his 11th ATP World Tour title and first since prevailing at the Citi Open in Washington last August. He is just the second player in Memphis history to lift four trophies, joining Jimmy Connors (1978-79, '83-84). The 26 year old takes home $109,950 in prize money and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points.
Fritz, meanwhile, capped a stunning week on the indoor hard courts of the Racquet Club of Memphis. He will rise to the precipice of the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after becoming just the fifth 18-year-old American to reach an ATP World Tour final in the past 30 years (Agassi, Chang, Roddick, Sampras). The second teenage finalist on the circuit this year, following Borna Coric's run in Chennai (l. to Wawrinka), Fritz was bidding to become the first teen titlist since Marin Cilic in New Haven in 2008.
"I definitely didn't expect to get to a [ATP World Tour] final so quickly," Fritz said. "It's a great accomplishment to get here despite losing in the final. I had a great week and I have to be happy with the result. I have a lot of confidence moving forward. I need to get my body stronger and I can continue to play at this level.
"He started off a little tentative and was leaving some balls for me to step in and hit. He was making some mistakes, but he loosened up and started playing much better. After a couple games, the balls get heavier and are tough to put away. Kei's such a fast player and incredible from the baseline and when I don't have that to put the ball away, he got extremely tough."