Top seed Kei Nishikori looks to keep his stranglehold on the Memphis Open, as he seeks his fourth straight title. He faces American teen phenom Taylor Fritz, who is playing in his first ATP World Tour final. Nishikori has won 16 straight matches in Memphis dating back to 2013.
(1) Kei Nishikori vs (wc) Taylor Fritz
Top seed Kei Nishikori was made to work in his semifinal by fourth seed Sam Querrey. Nishikori found himself down a set after being broken in the first set for the just the second time this week. As one would expect, the top seed responded well to dropping the opening set. Nishikori would raise his level and pressure Querrey the rest of the match as he rallied to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The top seed has been clutch this week when he has faced break points, saving 14 of 16 through three matches. His serve has been solid, winning 75 to 80 percent on his first serve all week and more importantly, winning well above 50 percent of the points when forced to go to his second serve.
For Taylor Fritz, this has been his best week as a pro. He is appearing in his first tour-level final and has shown a flare for the dramatic this week. In the quarters, he had to fight off several match points to put himself into position to beat Benjamin Becker in three. On Saturday, he found himself looking lost after one set to Ricardas Berankis. Fritz had dropped the opener 6-2, but rebounded in the second and third to beat the Lithuanian 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. An important aspect of the final two sets for Fritz was his ability to bounce back from adversity. In both sets, the 18-year-old took a break lead on Berankis, but gave it back. In both instances, he would come back from that and get the decisive break to finish both sets.
Fritz’s serve has provided some cheap points with 47 aces this week, but the American has been far from perfect on serve. He has been broken a dozen times in the last three matches. His second serve has been attacked with Fritz winning just 42 percent of the points there through those last three rounds. That is going to be a sticking point likely against Nishikori, one of the quality returners and defenders on tour. Fritz will need to tighten up his second serve and try to get more first serves in, where he can hope to control more of the points.
For Nishikori, the strategy should be fairly simple. He is the experienced player. His opponent is facing a top ten player for the first time. His opponent is taking part in his first ATP final. You get the drift that nerves could be large for Fritz. Fatigue could be just as big. It has been a long week for Fritz, not just in singles, but doubles as well. He teamed with Ryan Harrison this week and they made a surprising run to the semifinals. In last night’s doubles semifinal, Fritz looked a bit worn down from the double duty. That is not the position you want to be in against someone like Nishikori who can work you all over the court.
Fritz has been a great story this week and Nishikori’s lengthy winning streak in Memphis has also been a headline. Those two stories enter, only one can leave. Watch for Nishikori to test Fritz’s legs at every chance he gets. The more Nishikori works Fritz around the court, the more fatigue could show. That will directly effect the serve of Fritz, which has been a big weapon when consistent. Fritz will need a fast start to establish some belief that he can contend. If he is broken early, this could get away from him quickly. Nishikori is 10-5 in ATP finals and 3-0 in Memphis. Look for the top seed to add a win to both of those stat lines.
Nishikori wins in straight sets