MADRID, May 7, 2016
The roof was open on Manolo Santana centre court, creating outdoor conditions for the second semi-final at the Mutua Madrid Open, when top-seed Novak Djokovic beat Kei Nishikori for a seventh consecutive time.
The 28-year-old Belgrade native had to save three break points in the very first game of the match but from then on started to take control of the entertaining encounter. After sealing the opening set, Djokovic broke serve in the fifth game of the second frame and held a crucial eighth service game, winning some stunning rallies.
The world number one, however, struggled when he had to serve the match out, missing four match points. Nishikori was back at his best and broke Djokovic to level the set at 5-5 and eventually pushed the frame into the tie-break. 23 minutes after his last chance to finish the encounter, Djokovic overpowered the Japanese at his fifth match point to seal a 6-3, 7-6 victory after one hour and 58 minutes.
“I was dictating a lot with my forehand and playing aggressively. But just one game he played really well. He hits very deep. I made some mistake, but only with a few shots. Maybe few points first set and also second set. Maybe I had to make some adjustment, but still, I played a good two sets. It is disappointing, but, you know, it’s not like losing 6-1, 6-1. I look forward to play next week,” Nishikori told afterwards. The world number six awaits the winner of the encounter between Teymuraz Gabashvili and Viktor Troicki to open his Rome campaign next week.
Djokovic also gave credit to his opponent.
“I think Kei has started exceptionally well with the first three points, winners from all corners, so he obviously knows what his game plan is and what he wanted to do, and he started executing very efficiently from the very first point. So I knew it was going to be a tough match. Obviously he was feeling the ball very well, trying to be aggressive on every shorter ball, hitting through, and trying to finish off the points,” Djokovic said.
“It wasn’t easy because the conditions were different as well. I played practically an indoor match yesterday in very pleasing conditions. Today, windy and very cold. So you had to handle all these circumstances and try to maintain mentally tough. I’m just proud to overcome this kind of challenge. Kei did play well. No doubt about that. It was a close match.”
Djokovic will take on Andy Murray, who battled past Rafael Nadal earlier the day, in Sunday’s final. The Djoker leads 22-9 in head to head records.
“Andy has improved tremendously on clay the last couple years. He won this tournament last year against Nadal and won against Nadal again today, playing another final of one of the biggest clay court tournaments in the world. We all know that clay was not his most preferred surface in the past, but he’s known to be a very hard worker, a guy who has lots of dedication, and is always trying to improve and get his game to another level. That’s what he has done. He gets the results,” the Serbian is looking forward to the title match.
“I think he’s moving better and sliding better on the court. He is more patient. He constructs the point better, which is very important for clay. It really depends how we both start the match. I think that’s quite crucial for both of us. And we have very similar styles of the game. I’m sure that both of us will try to be protecting the baseline and try to be getting in the court and dictating. But it was the case in many previous matches we had against each other. Yeah, I’m expecting a big challenge.”