Kei Nishikori is seeking to get to back-to-back finals for second time this season. Andy Murray can make his first Rogers Cup final since 2010 with a win as they meet in the Rogers Cup semifinals this evening in Montreal.
(2) Andy Murray vs. (4) Kei Nishikori
It’s been a straight forward week for Andy Murray with three wins in straight sets. His match with defending Rogers Cup champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga started just before the stroke of Midnight eastern time on Friday. Murray looked in no mood to hang around on court for long. He secured one break of Tsonga’s serve in each set for a 6-4, 6-4 win. Tsonga as usual against Murray could not find the range on serve. He won just 66 percent of his first serve points after winning over 80 percent through his first three matches. Murray was decent enough on his own serve and saved all three break opportunities he allowed. The second seed said it was his ground strokes that won him the match though “I came up with some good passing shots and that was the difference.” Murray has now beaten the Frenchman three straight times since Tsonga shocked him last year at this event.
Some may have wondered if Kei Nishikori would run low on energy this week after winning the Citi Open last week. Nishikori has put that to rest with each match he has played in Montreal lasting under an hour and a half. The fourth seed dictated play from the beginning of the match in the quarterfinals against 7th seeded Rafael Nadal. Nadal had trouble getting his first serve in, only able to do it 50 percent of the time. That allowed Nishikori plenty of looks at a weak second serve that Nishikori won 15 of 24 points on. Nishikori’s serve stayed solid throughout as he won 80 percent of his first serve points and was broken just once. Even if Rafa is far from what he used to be, it is a monumental win for Nishikori after losing to Nadal seven times previously. The 6-2, 6-4 scoreline was well indicative of the whipping dished out by Nishikori.
Andy Murray will look to continue a good string of results against Kei Nishikori in tonight’s semifinal match-up. Murray has defeated Nishikori four of five tries in their careers. The lone win came for Nishikori last year at The O2 in London during the World Tour Finals. A tired Murray lost 6-4, 6-4. Murray won their only meeting this season at the Madrid Masters 6-3, 6-4. Murray pummeled the Nishikori serve, winning 46 percent of the points and breaking him four times on eight chances. It stick with Murray’s reputation as one of the top returners on tour today. This week alone in Montreal, he has broken his opponents ten times.
Nishikori heads into this battle with all the momentum in the world with eight streak wins dating back to last week’s Citi Open title run. That streak includes a pair of Top 10 wins and four wins against players ranked in the Top 20. The question is can Nishikori break through against a player in the Top Five? Since his remarkable upset over Novak Djokovic in last year’s U.S. Open, Nishikori has gone 0-6 against players ranked in the top five. Murray is currently ranked third. I don’t think it’s a mental block for Kei. I believe it’s the age old addage of the hunter becoming the hunted. Nishikori is not sneaking up on anyone after his rise in 2014 and that means everyone comes prepared for the best.
A ninth straight win could be a tall task against Murray tonight. Murray is so good at getting into his opponent’s serve and that is still an area where Nishikori isn’t always at his best. Look for Murray to challenge Nishikori on serve as the match goes on. Nishikori’s save rate on break points is very good at 68 percent, but Murray is one of the best converting them at 48 percent. Nishikori is good in his own right with a 42 percent conversion rate and that is likely where this match gets decided. Who gives the other man more opportunities to break and who does a better job of converting them?
Nishikori may be playing some of his best tennis, but this match-up rarely has favored him. With Murray also playing at a high level this week, it is difficult to see Nishikori turning the tables tonight without a poor performance from Murray. Another Djokovic-Murray final could be looming when play finishes this evening in Montreal.
Andy Murray in two sets