Japan’s Kei Nishikori took a big step on his road back to the US Open final on Sunday by rallying to defeat John Isner and win the Washington Open title.
The 25-year-old Asian number one, last year’s US Open runner-up, defeated American John Isner 4-6 6-4 6-4 to capture his 10th career title at the combined ATP and WTA hardcourt event, a warm-up for the US Open fortnight that starts in three weeks.
“I’m sure this win will help me a lot. It’s important for me to play good tennis this summer,” Nishikori said. “I’m looking forward to playing again in the US Open. I’m excited to play again on the big stage.”
Nishikori, who will rise one spot on Monday to match his career high ranking of fourth in the world, won his third crown of the season after defending titles at Memphis and Barcelona.
Nishikori became the first Asian singles winner in the tournament’s 47-year history despite connecting on only 59 per cent of his first serves. He managed to win 42 of his 46 first-serve points despite only five aces to Isner’s 18.
“I returned really well,” Nishikori said. “I had to guess sometimes but I was there all the time and it was a great winning percentage on my first serve.
“I’ve been returning really well this week and winning a lot of matches like this. It’s never easy gainst these big servers but I’m playing well against these guys.”
Isner found himself foiled by Nishikori’s first serves and the baseline game with which he backstopped them.
“I just didn’t make enough inroads on his first serves,” Isner said. “He put a decent number of first serves in and from there he is arguably the best in the world from the baseline.
“His backhand is world class. He’s very talented and very skilled. He knows what he’s doing with the ball. He’s gifted with talent and he works his tail off. He’s a great player and a great champion.”
Isner, who won his only prior meeting with Nishikori in April’s Miami quarter-finals, will jump from 18th to 12th in Monday’s rankings.
“I’m playing with a lot of confidence,” Isner said.
It was Isner’s third loss in a Washington final after falling to Andy Roddick in 2007 and Juan Martin Del Potro in 2013.
“Getting to the finals three times and not breaking through is disappointing, but I haven’t lost to any slouches,” Isner said. “Getting to the final is a good achievement but losing stinks.”