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Nishikori re-emerges as clay-court threat ahead of French Open — Tennis

02 May 2018, 12:45 | Cornelio Vivanco

GETTYKei Nishikori faces Rafael Nadal in the Monte Carlo Masters final

GETTYKei Nishikori faces Rafael Nadal in the Monte Carlo Masters final

They have not squared off since the bronze-medal match at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where Nishikori triumphed 6-2, 6-7 (1), 6-3.

What frantic emergency could command such attention?

In the final, Nadal will meet Japanese Kei Nishikori, who defeated Alexander Zverev of Germany 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The fourth seed was displaying the resolve needed to push Nadal on his favourite surface, and came back from break point down again as the Spaniard continued to miss chances.

Despite the defeat, world number 36 Nishikori will take plenty of positives from the tournament as he continues to work his way back to form and full fitness.

I was just looking to relax me little bit, to hit some balls hard, and to move the arm without nerves. He was able to spread the court well throughout those matches, with Thiem's movement out to his forehand side exposed by Nadal's cross court backhand. Even for a god on clay that may be a bridge too far. Nadal moved one ahead of rival Novak Djokovic for career Masters titles. Of course, these two players can beat me. It was under Vajda whom Djokovic flourished to be the most dominant player in the last decade.

"It's getting there", said Nishikori, who has missed the past two majors because of a torn tendon.

A meeting with either Martin Klizan or Federico Delbonis in round two is certainly more than winnable, while he has lost just once to likely third-round opponent Feliciano Lopez in their 10 previous meetings. The German player looked jaded, having finished a long and grueling quarterfinal at 9 p.m. Friday.

If Kei Nishikori is moving less than 100 percent in Sunday's title tilt, it would be understandable.

He knows it will be a different challenge toppling him in Monte Carlo.

"I always enjoy playing this tournament", said Nishikori. Find us on Facebook too! "It's an important match for me tomorrow".

"These kind of things are not going to happen forever", he said. "I was there solid". But he was unable to close the match out, and Cilic forced a decider by winning the ensuing tiebreak.

The fire still burns as strongly for Nadal. It was Nadal's first ATP Tour title for 11 months and a record sixth on the spin in Monte Carlo.

The 31-year-old Spaniard won 6-3 6-2 in 94 minutes to claim a record-extending 11th triumph at the clay-court event. Last year, Lucas Pouille took the inaugural title, defeating Aljaz Bedene in straight sets in the final.



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