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Tennis: Nishikori captures Malaysian Open ahead of Japan return

Kei Nishikori beat nine-time ATP runner-up Julien Benneteau to win the Malaysian Open ahead of his return home for the Rakuten Japan Open. Photo: AFP.

Kei Nishikori beat Frenchman Julien Benneteau to win the Malaysian Open ahead of his return home for the Rakuten Japan Open. Photo: AFP.

September 28, 2014: Top seed Kei Nishikori won his third ATP World Tour title of the season on Sunday when he beat Julien Benneteau 7-6(4), 6-4 in the Malaysian Open final in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Victory at the ATP World Tour 250 indoor hard-court tournament earned Nishikori 170 points in the Emirates ATP Race To London to extend his lead over seventh-placed David Ferrer.

 

Nishikori surged into contention to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals after reaching his maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open, where he lost to Marin Cilic. He is hoping to become the first Asian man to compete at the season finale.

 

The 24-year-old Nishikori has a 44-10 record this season, which features titles in Memphis and Barcelona, and a runner-up showing at the Madrid Open, where he competed in his first Masters 1000 final.

 

In Kuala Lumpur, Nishikori had to come back from a break down in the first set against Benneteau before wrapping up victory in one hour and 47 minutes, having won 72 per cent of his service points.

 

“It was a really tough start, because he was playing so aggressive,” Nishikori said. “I was waiting for my opportunity. I had so many break points and I couldn’t take them. In the last game, he got a little bit tight and I took my chance. After that I played much better and I think he was getting a little bit tired in the second set. I tried to raise my level. It wasn’t my best tennis, but it’s good to win like this.”

 

While there was joy for Nishikori, there was heartache for Benneteau, who was contesting the Malaysian Open final for the third year in a row and had been looking to win his first ATP World Tour title after losing in nine previous finals.

 

The 32-year-old Frenchman, who had upset second seed Ernests Gulbis in the semi-finals, led Nishikori by a break and served for the first set, but could not maintain his lead, despite saving nine of the 10 break points he faced.

 

“It was a very good week and today was my best match of the week,” Benneteau said. “Kei was simply too good in the key moments, especially at the end of the first set. I had some chances, but against these kinds of players, they are small chances and you have to take them.

 

“I tried to play my best and I almost did it. I’m disappointed with the loss, but very happy with the level of my game. It’s hard to keep that level of intensity in every point and every game. I need to improve this to be more consistent.”

 

Leander Paes won his 54th tour-level doubles title when the 41-year-old Indian and Poland’s Marcin Matkowski beat second seeds Jamie Murray of Britain and John Peers of Australia 3-6, 7-6(5), 10-5.

 

Matkowski is Paes’ 98th different doubles partner and was playing his first tour-level final without long-time partner Mariusz Fyrstenberg, with whom he won the previous week’s Moselle Open.

 

“In a match like that, especially in the final, the margins between winning and losing are very small,” said Paes, who became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title when he won last year’s US Open men’s doubles with Radek Stepanek.

 

“What I really like about Marcin’s game after playing with him this week is that he’s a student of tennis. On the court, he’s always looking to improve. We didn’t play our best tennis in the beginning. We were playing a team that were very confident. They don’t give you much rhythm, but then when we were down, we found our groove and it was pretty much a different story then.”

 

Source: ATP World Tour (www.atpworldtour.com); Editing by SportAsia

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