Nishikori vs Raonic US Open 2014
Heading into the match Nishikori leads Roanic 2-1 in career matches. Lately, Raonic has been playing hot, winning the US Open series and looking for a $1-million dollar bonus for winning the US Open. Nishikori comes into the match a little rusty after taking time off for foot surgery, missing five weeks of competition before starting the US Open.
Raonic has a very basic style of play; a huge serve, a huge forehand, and the desire to get into the net to knock off easy volleys for winners. Over the last 18 months he has spent a lot of time developing his touch at the net and his mental game during tiebreakers.
Nishikori has a counter punchers style of play. Moving forward to take the ball on the rise to pin his opponent into the corners. Most of his career has been plagued with injuries ranging from lower back, to leg, and foot injuries.
Both men were competing for country records. Neither Japan nor Canada has had a man reach the quarter finals of the US Open in singles.
Nishikori started the match serving a little tentative. Typically when he is nervous his head drops during the contact point of the serve. Because of this drop, his torso, right arm and racket do not get up through the ball thus forcing serves into the net. This happened early in the first set to give Raonic an early break to go up 4-1. (redundant: in the first set.) Nishikori did tie the first set at 4-4 before losing 4-6. In the 7th and 8th games of the first set Raonic was up 40 – love and Nishikori grinded back to pull out the break and hold.
In the second set Nishikori and Raonic exchanged breaks leading to an exciting tiebreaker that Nishikori pulled out. In the third set there were no breaks although Raonic served very poorly. Raonic was able to get his serve together to pull out the win in the tiebreaker.
After the third set the match looked all but over. Nishikori took almost a ten minute locker room break and a five minute injury break after the third game in the fourth set. He was getting his foot taped, the same foot he had surgery on five weeks earlier. It seemed it was just a matter of time before Raonic would break to get the lead and eventually close out the match. Nishikori fought hard to get the set to 5-5 and then (story peak; insert adjective like amazingly, extraordinarily) broke Raonic! Nishikori served well to close out the fourth set thus creating the need for a fifth set and to raise the question; Can they beat the record for the latest (running) match in US Open history? (this is not a quote, just a question)
Well, they tied the US Open record for the latest (running) match (ending) at 2:26am along with two other matches! At 2-2 in the fifth set Nishikori did it, he broke Raonic’s serve, again! Now it was just a battle of nerves. Raonic hadn’t come close to breaking Nishikori’s serve since the second set. Could Nishikori continue to hold out serving for one of the biggest matches of his career? In a long drawn out event, Nishikori held on for the win 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.
What did Nishikori do to neutralize the weapons of Raonic? While Raonic had a huge serve regularly reaching 140+ mph, it was a little off with a first serve percentage in the low fifty percentile. Nishikori took a closer return position on his second serves often stepping in to neutralize the serve. However, the “T” serve on the ad side was a major weapon for Raonic, amassing several second serve aces to that target.
While constructing points Nishikori did an amazing job driving backhands cross court. This shot became so effective that Raonic was regularly standing close to the doubles alley to run around and hit a forehand. Raonic had a huge forehand but it wasn’t quite big enough to hurt Nishikori’s backhand consistently. By the middle of the fifth set Raonic was so tired that he couldn’t cover the deuce side of the court because he needed to camp on the ad side to cover his weaker backhand.
The lesson to learn for younger players is while having big weapons helps, a complete game provides many more opportunities for success. Continue developing your weapons but also develop an all court style play.
Josh Basha USPTA