On the second to last day of round-robin play at the ATP World Tour Finals, the tournament without a doubt produced its finest match of this year’s event between Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori. The world number two and world number eight produced the O2 Arena’s finest display as the Swiss maestro took out the Japanese number one 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. The win for Federer gave him three wins in the round-robin stage of Group Stan Smith as Nishikori bowed out of the tournament.
Stunning Display From Both Players But Federer Takes Opener
Nishikori was the first man to fall into trouble battling at 30-30 down 0-1, but he found a way to get on the board, thanks to his high first serve percentage. The world number eight was broken first as he came from behind and found himself at 30-40. Federer’s wittiness drew an error from Nishikori to take a 3-1 lead. Despite that break, the Japanese struck back as Nishikori used his favorite backhand to overpower Federer in backhand-to-backhand rallies with the 17-time Grand Slam champion dumping one into the net to give the break back.
After consolidating, the 2014 US Open runner-up found himself with an opportunity to move ahead after a stunning backhand winner behind Federer gave him double break point. An extravagant forehand winner left Federer glued to his spot as the momentum all of a sudden swung Nishikori’s way.
Nishikori had a point to make it four games on the trot, but Federer duly outsmarted him at 40-30 which caused the Japanese number one to tighten up and surrender his quick lead. Federer would hold for 5-4, but that was without witnessing one of the points of the match with Federer hitting a half-volley behind Nishikori, but somehow, he was able to reach it and hit a backhand winner behind Federer. Absolutely marvelous stuff despite not being able to break.
Federer found himself just two points from the set with Nishikori serving to stay in the set. Some wonderful winners put the world number eight on the brink of a tiebreak but the pair exchanged volleys before Federer whipped out a backhand down the line to get it to deuce in another high-quality point. Two errors from Nishikori gifted the set to the Swiss seven games to five.
Nishikori Rallies From 4-1 Down To Take It The Distance
It was as simple as you like to start the second set, but it was deja vu with Federer breaking in the fourth game. It was a break at love for the Swiss as a devastating cross-court forehand winner followed by a stunning backhand which punished the world number eight’s second serve. The Fed Express looked large and incharge, moving to a 4-1 lead with a hold at 15.
Nishikori was threatened once again at 30-30 but managed to show off his arsenal of brilliant shots to hold, and that momentum carried him to triple break point in the following game. In the blink of an eye, he was back in it with the break and another hold for four apiece. Out of nowhere, Federer turned a simple volley putaway into a horrendous miss that he missed 10 feet wide while leading 30-15 in the ninth game. All of a sudden from 1-4 down, Nishikori found himself 5-4 up.
A wrong-footing winner helped Nishikori set up two set points. He would take the set 6-4 after Federer’s attempt at a drop shot found the net.
Missed Opportunities Doom Nishikori
Federer found himself in even more trouble in the third game of the final set. From 0-40 down though, he managed to hold for 2-1. For the third straight set, Federer broke in the fourth game, but once again, the world number eight delivered a mesmerizing shot, hitting an old school flick backhand on the run to give himself a game point which he could not convert.
After falling down 1-3 for a third consecutive set and 1-4 for a second straight set, there was no way Nishikori could dig himself out of this hole could he? Well think again. The Japanese number one held for 2-4 and managed to get that break back for 3-4 with a little help from Federer thanks to some untimely errors and a double fault. A sensational dig on the half-volley in No Man’s Land helped Nishikori to four apiece as the ball looked like a floater, only for it to spin back away from the Swiss number one.
The world number three quickly erased those past three games out of his memory to put the pressure back on Nishikori. A double fault on game point proved costly for Nishikori in the final game as it brought it back to deuce as Federer pounced and broke to take it in three.