Some matches deserve a special post and MY GOD, THIS WAS ONE! Kei Nishikori needed ten match points to defeat David Ferrer in a magnificent semi-final in Madrid that was just five minutes shy of the three hour mark. It was the best match of the week by a country mile and one of the most entertaining matches of 2014. Physically and mentally, this was an absolutely huge performance by Nishikori.
After Ferrer won the second set, Nishikori received treatment for a lower back complaint, which he was obviously struggling with. It looked like it might be curtains for him in the third set. However he showed a tremendous amount of determination in that third set and got the break to lead 4-2. Serving for the match at 5-3, the last game was a mixture of tension and hilarity. Nishikori blew nine match points, of which he made errors on the majority, if not all. He was noticeably tight with a number of loose groundstrokes into the middle of the net. Ferrer let out a few huge screams after missed chances on the break points or when Nishikori was able to magically conjure up a great serve on deuce or break point. I think everyone was screaming like Daveed watching that final game.
Finally, Kei converted on his tenth match point in THAT 15 minute+ final game. All in all, this was a tremendous performance. Mentally, for Kei to come through that third set and get across the finish line with an injury against someone of Ferrer’s quality and with his fighting spirit was just so impressive. Kei’s game is really coming together. Praise is always dished out for the Nishikori backhand, but I thought the forehand was terrific today too. This is a first Masters 1000 final for Nishikori in a stunning week that will see him crack the top ten. IF Nishikori can stay fit and healthy and it is a big IF, then he really is going places this year. Unfortunately, injuries have too often derailed his positive momentum.
Ferrer deserves a pretty sizeable mention because he played some excellent tennis at times. He did however, struggle in the big moments and really should have wrapped up the first set. Kei was visibly tight in that last game and Ferrer should have converted on a break point. Nishikori will take on Rafael Nadal in the final. Goodness knows how Kei gets himself ready for that match because he will be hurting tomorrow morning. I think it’s a given that Kei will pull out of Rome. Nadal will be the huge favourite although I won’t forget this match in a long while. Nishikori and Ferrer have laided down the gauntlet for one of the best match-ups of 2014 after their equally epic match in Miami. Great stuff.
Final Prediction: Nadal d. Nishikori in 2 sets