Kei Nishikori breaks staggering run of outs to take Brisbane title
Kei Nishikori had amassed quite the finals record by the time he stepped onto Pat Rafter Arena to take on rising Russian star Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night in Brisbane.
Since winning the ATP event in Memphis in February of 2016, Japan's leading male player had managed to lose all nine of his next deciders. Medvedev had won three titles just last year, one of them against Nishikori… in Japan, just to rub salt into the wound.
The loose-limbed 22-year-old, seeded fourth in Brisbane, had beaten the in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-finals and looked more than a live chance to extend Nishikori's impressive run of outs at the point end of tournaments.
Alas, for the Japanese cult figure, it was to be at long last. By and large, the final was an extension of the rock-solid tennis he produced all week as he won 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 and was for once the man making the winner's speech, not politely applauding as the gallant loser.
"I'm really happy that finally I won this title, it's been seven or eight times in this tournament. Daniil had a great final … I actually lost a final to him in Japan so it was lovely to have some revenge today. I hope he has a great season," Nishikori said with a smile as he received the silverware from Australian tennis great Ashley Cooper.
"I was injured last year and I'm happy to be back healthy and playing."
It's been a drought and a half for Nishikori, now 29 and ranked nine in the world as he continues his climb back up the rankings. He peaked in March of 2015 when he was world number four, six months after he reached and lost his only Grand Slam final when he fell at the US Open to Marin Cilic.
This would be title number 12 and a week of highly consistent tennis will please him no end as he heads to Melbourne for the Australian Open, a tournament in which he's never been beyond the quarter finals.
He has been at the forefront of a generation of players that Nadal said simply had not been up to challenging the dominance of the reigning greats but perhaps more opportunities are about to arise as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic try to extend their dominance.
"The main goal is to do well at the Australian Open but I'm really happy I've been playing really well this week," he said. "Even if I lose today, I think I've been very confident in some of the matches I've played.
"I'm happy to go into Melbourne and I feel like it's one of my favourite tournaments, it's almost home there. I hope I can do well, better than the quarter finals."
Nishikori won't play in Sydney as he heads directly to Melbourne but Medvedev is the defending Sydney champion and will take his place in the field.
The world number 16 has been pegged as a future fixture in the top 10 and had his moments against Nishikori, rallying strongly to take the second before his opponent's relentless ground strokes wore him down in the third.