MEMPHIS (AFP) – Kei Nishikori extended his Memphis Open reign on Sunday, defeating Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4 to win his third straight title at the ATP hardcourt tournament.
The top-seeded Japanese captured his eighth ATP crown, and his first since he won in Tokyo in October.
That was one of two titles Nishikori captured late last year after a breakthrough run to the final of the US Open.
This year, the world number five hadn’t made it to a final until this week, but a return to Memphis proved the tonic he needed.
“It feels great,” said Nishikori, who became the first man to win three straight titles at Memphis since the tournament began in 1975. “I think I’m going to move here soon.”
His win over the second-seeded Anderson, in 75 minutes, was his most complete performance of the week, and his first match of the tournament in which he captured the opening set.
“I returned really well,” Nishikori said. “I felt a lot of confidence and played a lot of deep balls to put pressure on him. I played almost perfect today.”
Nishikori took charge in the second with a break for a 3-2 lead, coming up with a running backhand down the line passing shot on break point.
The drama wasn’t done, however.
Serving for the match at 5-4, he raced to a 40-0 lead, but Anderson held on for deuce.
After the South African pushed a backhand long, Nishikori sealed the win on his fourth opportunity, when Anderson went wide with a forehand.
Anderson, the world number 15 who received a wild card into the tournament, fired 12 aces, but was broken three times as he endured his sixth straight ATP finals defeat.
His only titles came at the 2011 South African Open and in 2012 at Delray Beach, Florida, where he now resides.
“He played a really solid match,” Anderson said. “I have to give credit to him. I had little opportunities but I just played a few loose games. He came up with the good shots when it mattered.”