Novak Djokovic truly did meet a great match with Japan’s rising star Kei Nishikori at the 2015 Rome Open. It took three sets 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 for the number one ranked tennis player to move to the semi-finals where he’ll go up against Spain’s David Ferrer. The winner of that match will go on to face either Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka or Roger Federer.
Both tennis champs came out of the gate ready and Djokovic worked for his first set, but was able to take it. But then Nishikori came blazing back in the second set, just stunning the Serbian tennis star with everything from power serves to his speed on the clay courts. The Japanese tennis player was diving for shots that most tennis players let whiz by. This took Novak by surprise and had him running as hard and making a few errors along the way.
By the third set it felt like Djokovic had worn Nishikori down as he took round after round rather easily. This was a great match to watch mainly in the second set as Djokovic truly met his match in speed. He came in strong and was making sure to not make the same mistakes as he had in the second set. You can tell that he has his eye on the prize and isn’t willing to accept anything else besides this title.
As Nishikori continues to climb and excel, future matches between these two will be as exciting as ones between the Serb and Rafael Nadal. Playing against talent like Djokovic is a great challenge and will propel him further in his career.
Djokovic has a 32-5 record at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament, lifting the trophy in 2008 (d. Wawrinka), 2011 (d. Nadal) and 2014 (d. Nadal); he also finished runner-up in 2009 and 2012.
The 27-year-old Djokovic takes a 14-5 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over Ferrer into Saturday’s clash. The Belgrade native has won their past eight meetings, including victory in the Rome quarter-finals last year. This is the sixth time in nine appearances that he’s reached the semi-finals at the Rome Open, and Nishikori truly made him earn it.
Djokovic recorded his 20th win in a row as he closed out Nishikori in one hour and 48 minutes. The Serb has not been beaten since falling to Roger Federerin the Dubai final. Since then, he has won three straight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in Indian Wells (d. Federer), Miami (d. Murray) and Monte-Carlo (d. Berdych).
An early break secured the first set for Djokovic in his sixth meeting with Nishikori, but the Japanese came back strongly in the second set, breaking in the sixth game before levelling the match. Going into the decider, Djokovic had won 28 straight matches when taking the first set and Nishikori boasted a 21-2 mark in deciding sets in the past year.
Something had to give and it was Nishikori. The 25-year-old Shimane native could not maintain his level of the second set and Djokovic raised his intensity to secure two service breaks in the fourth and sixth games.
Nishikori dropped to a 31-7 mark on the season as he suffered only his second clay defeat of 2015. The right-hander retained his crown in Barcelona (d. Andujar) and reached the semi-finals last week in Madrid (l. to Murray).