Kei Nishikori thrills home crowd with victory over Canada’s Milos Raonic to win the Japan Open

Kei Nishikori thrills home crowd with victory over Canada’s Milos Raonic to win the Japan Open

TOKYO Eighthseeded Kei Nishikori of Japan downed Canada’s Milos Raonic 76 (5), 36, 60 on Sunday to win the Japan Open.

The victory gave the 22yearold Nishikori his second career ATP tour title and first in more than four years.

Nishikori, ranked No. 17, put on a fine allaround display before a packed house at Ariake Colosseum to record the triumph against the sixthseeded Raonic, who’s 21 and hails from Thornhill, Ont.

The Japanese lost just two games on serve against Raonic, who lacked the spark he showed on Saturday when he ousted topseeded Andy Murray in the semifinals. Raonic was undone by unforced errors in the loss.

Nishikori, a native of Shimane Prefecture in southern Japan, is the first Japanese player to win the tournament in its 41year history.

Nishikori broke Raonic in the second game of the opening set, marking only the second time in 44 games in the tournament that Raonic had dropped a game on serve. Nishikori then held serve to go up 30.

Raonic responded by winning three straight games to level, including a break in the fifth game. The set then remained on serve until the tiebreaker.

Nishikori hit sharp forehands from the baseline throughout the set and also benefited from several mistakes by Raonic.

Nishikori squandered two set points while leading 65, as Raonic held on to force the tiebreaker.

After winning the first two points of the tiebreaker, Raonic came to the net and made it 30 with a volley. Nishikori replied with three straight points to even the score and made it seven of nine to take the tiebreaker.

Raonic was having trouble with his backhand returns, and sent one long to give Nishikori the set 75.

Raonic had two break points in the second game of the second set, but could not capitalize as Nishikori held to make it 11.

The set went on serve until Raonic broke to move ahead 53 and took the set 63 when Nishikori sent a return of serve into the net.

Raonic found his rhythm in the second set and began to serve better, notching eight aces, just as Nishikori appeared to tire.

Nishikori broke Raonic go to up 20 in the final set with a nice backhand down the line. With his confidence growing, Nishikori began coming to the net more frequently.

After holding serve to go up 30, Nishikori rifled a twohand backhand down the line to break for 40 and went on to close it out 60 with one more break.

Nishikori routed unseeded Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets on Saturday to book his place in the final. His previous victory on the ATP tour came in Delray Beach, Florida, in February 2008 when he was just 18.

Raonic had won two tournaments this year, triumphing in Chennai, India, and San Jose, California.

En route to the Japan Open final, Raonic earned his 40th singles victory of 2012 and also eclipsed the $1 million mark in prize money for the season.

And despite his loss, he remains in the chase for one of the last four spots in next month’s prestigious eightman World Tour Finals in London.

Raonic will continue his push towards London next week at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. He is seeded no. 12 and will play a qualifier in the opening round.

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