At 2:26 am on Tuesday morning, day eight of the 2014 US Open officially concluded. Kei Nishikori defeated Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4 after more than four hours of play. This match is definitely one of the highlights so far at Flushing Meadows and there is no doubt that Nishikori deserved the win. Raonic fought hard but his money shot, the serve, wasn’t helping him out in the way it usually does. Raonic’s first serve percentage was a lowly 55 percent.
Raonic and Nishikori have met three times before, with Nishikori coming out on top in the head to head record. Though they have played many times before and are familiar with each other’s game styles the matches are always interesting. Nishikori is a great returner and counter-puncher while Raonic leads with his serve and power. Nishikori is light on his feet and favors longer rallies while Raonic prefers quick, short points. Though Raonic is ranked #5 and Nishikori #10, Nishikori’s victory should not be considered an upset. Nishikori has always challenged Raonic and this is not his first victory over him.
Raonic clearly was not playing his best but that shouldn’t detract anything from Nishikori’s victory, he earned it after a grueling five set match against the powerful Canadian. Nishikori did a lot of things right; including keeping a positive mentality after losing the first and third sets, playing aggressively and taking the ball early, and finally holding his service games. Nishikori is known for his backhand but his forehand also contributed to his success over Raonic. While he did many things right, there are still things to work on. In general, he did a great job of converting breaks and consolidating the lead afterward but in the third set Nishikori had eight break point opportunities and couldn’t convert any of them. He eventually lost the set and had to take the match deep into the fifth. This point would carry more weight if Nishikori had lost the match but it is still something that needs to be worked on.
For Raonic, this match exposed his weaknesses and insecurities. Without his serve, what is there to his game? He struggled in long rallies and Nishikori forced him to go for riskier shots, which led to a higher number of unforced errors and ultimately cost him the match. It was a tough day for Canada as Eugenie Bouchard also departed but this should be a learning experience for Raonic. In order for him to really break into the tour he’s going to need to work on his game from the baseline and become more comfortable in those long rallies. Having a giant serve won’t be enough; it needs to be complemented with a strong baseline and net game. During this match it almost looked like Raonic gave up, he just stopped moving and Nishikori hit him clean off the courts.
This will be Nishikori’s first appearance in the US Open quarterfinals and he is set to face Stanislas Wawrinka. Wawrinka won a hard fought match over Tommy Robredo the #16 seed on Monday night. If the rest of week two play is anything like day eight then the US Open will certainly provide some entertainment to tennis fans everywhere.