Chalkdust Chronicles – Djokovic ensures stormy weather to down Nishikori in three sets
(November 15, 2014) LONDON – Two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic showed the first cracks to his super-human armor when he took three sets to halt Kei Nishikori’s bid to reach the title match of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals – winning 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.
At first it could not have looked more routine. The tournament has been almost plagued by one-sided matches, and after breaking the Japanese player in his second service game, Djokovic piled on the pressure as Nishikori seemed to struggle to get any purpose on his shots.
Nishikori has been struggling with a wrist injury all week, and with constant returns by the trainer to treat and tape the wrist, it looked as though this would all be over very quickly when Djokovic started the second set with an immediate break.
The semi-final crowds wanted to see a good contest and threw their support firmly behind Nishikori, gamely cheering on a Djokovic double-fault which earned Nishikori a break, and in return they were rewarded with a less than appreciated hand clap from Djokovic.
The immediate break back seemed to give Nishikori a new lease of life as Djokovic’s lapses in concentration and shot selection opened the door, and Nishikori wasted no time in leveling the match.
With two break points up on Djokovic at the start of the deciding set, the Serb dug deep and clawed back to register a vital hold and from there, Nishikori’s resolve left him as Djokovic raced through the set, leaving the final blow for Nishikori to deliver himself, with a double-fault on match point.
After the match, he believed he had the chances in the final set, despite the apparent one-sidedness of it all
Nishikori said: “The first set he played really good, too good for me. But second set I start playing well. He got little bit tight. I took some risk. Everything worked well in the second. I was playing well. Even first couple points in third set, I thought I had it. I think I start thinking too much about he’s No. 1 player, Novak. I think I risked too much. I think I did too many unforced errors first couple games. Then he start playing better.”
He continued: “You know, it’s very disappointing because I think if I little bit change I could be I think little more closer in the third set. But it was good one week.”
It has been an outstanding run for the Japanese player who has made history this year, reaching a Grand Slam final, reaching the highest rank for an Asian player and now reaching the World Tour finals for the first time, and making the semi-finals on his debut.
But it has been a long season and has been beset with injuries – so his plans for the new season have to take into account the pressure it will take to stay at the top of the game.
He explained: “Maybe mentally little bit tired because I had to fight couple tight moment, especially in Paris. I had to win couple matches to get in here. US Open was first experience to go final and play seven matches, five sets. But I think physically I show that I could, you know, play seven matches, play two times five sets. I think physically I’m getting strong.
“I think it’s going to be very important I do well this December, a lot of train, good practice, try to prepare for next year.”
It was a strangely subdued Djokovic who faced the press, cryptically refusing to answer why he opted to sign the camera with just a full-stop instead of his usual message, and why he reacted to the crowd cheering the double-fault break-point.
“Honestly, today I found it a little bit difficult mentally to stay concentrated throughout the whole match. After emotional three matches I had, especially yesterday when I achieved the goal to finish as No. 1 of the world, knowing that, I felt a little bit, I would say, flat emotionally today. I needed a little bit more time to kind of give myself a boost.
“I was fortunate because in the beginning of the third set, he had breakpoints. If he broke me, the match could have gone either way. I managed to find that little bit of strength and get a win today. “
There is a real sense that the end of the season cannot com quick enough, especially for the World No. 1 who was also low key in his press conference yesterday after reclaiming the World No. 1 spot.
“Tomorrow is the last match of the season. Of course, it’s one of the biggest tournaments in the world, aside of the Grand Slams. This is already the biggest possible motivation. I will try to give everything I have.”
Djokovic will face either Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final.