(October 7, 2012) -- Kei Nishikori fulfilled a lifetime dream as he became the first Japanese man ever to win the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.
With Nishikori and his opponent in the finals Canada's Milos Raonic playing stellar tennis all week, it was expected to be a close contest. Nishikori jumped out to an early 3-0 lead at the start of the match before Raonic got his game going to pull even at 3-all. Nishikori missed out on two set points chances on Raonic's serve at 6-5, but late in the tiebreak, he ripped a backhand passing shot that allowed him to eventually take the first set 7-6.
Raonic stormed back in the second set with strong returning of his own and broke Nishikori in the eighth game that allowed him to claim the set 6-3. But the momentum swung back in favor of the Japanese No. 1 as he broke Raonic early in the final set and then went up 3-0.
But there would be no letdown as in the first set for Nishikori as he proceeded to put on a blistering display of fine play that saw him hit multiple winning passing shots while Raonic was up at net along with breaking the Canadian two more times in the set. A final netted forehand from Raonic sealed the fairytale 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-0 victory for Nishikori.
Along with winning his home country's event for the first time, Nishikori also earned his first ever ATP 500 title in his career.
“I have not been able to play well in Japan until now, so I always thought perhaps I was not mentally strong enough to do so,” Nishikori said later to ATP.com. “But the match against (Tomas) Berdych, something changed. I was able to play much better yesterday and today as well. On one side of my mind, I cannot believe I won the tournament, but at the same time, I feel that I’m happy I was able to do this.”
ATP Executive Chairman and President Brad Drewett congratulated Nishikori in a statement saying, "Kei is a terrific player who is already a star at home in Japan and among the Top 20 players in the world. I’m sure this historic win over a very difficult field in Tokyo will give him great confidence and we look forward to seeing all that he can do. Kei has a very bright future on the ATP World Tour and we couldn’t be more proud of him."
Along with winning $308,130 in prize money and picking up 500 ranking points, Nishikori also won a year's supply of free beer from tour sponsor Corona.
(Photo Credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve)